Thursday, February 24, 2011

Don't Judge a Book By Its Cover - My Love, My Enemy by Jan Cox Speas

Are you a fan of Georgette Heyer? Are you looking for another author that writes a great romantic novel set during the regency era, (but in an American setting)? Jan Cox Speas is the author for you!

Don’t judge a book by its cover is the theme of this post. When I received my copy of My Love, My Enemy, I took one look at the cover and decided it was a bodice-ripping romance. I’ll admit, I also thought that Jan Cox Speas was a non de plume with the middle name specifically targeted to the romance reader.

I was pleasantly surprised as I started reading My Love, My Enemy, to find a great historical fiction adventure story set during the War of 1812. There is no bodice ripping at all and instead a sweet, chaste romance. I loved it!

Catherine “Page” Bradley is a young 18-year old girl from a family of seven daughters. One inauspicious day in 1813, she sneaks on to the family slope the “Catherine” for a ride through the Chesapeake Bay in order to purchase a new frock in Annapolis. While in town, Page accidently rescues Lord Hazard from a mob who is convinced he is a British spy. Duncan McDougall, the family servant who had manned the slope, sets sail for back home with Page, Lord Hazard, and Farley (Lord Hazard’s servant). Unfortunately, they are captured by a British frigate, and so begins Page’s epic journey. The four end up being captured and recaptured numerous times by numerous governments and sail halfway around the world and back again. It leads for quite an adventure and quite an interesting history lesson at the British battle both Napoleon and James Madison, and Page witnesses the burning of Washington, D.C. first hand. There is also a sweet romance between Page and Hazard. Can Page learn to love the enemy?

Jan Cox Speas originally published this novel in 1961, which is probably part of the reason that it reminds me of a Heyer novel as it was written during the same time period and set during the regency era, although in America rather than England. Speas unfortunately passed away in 1971 while still in her forties. She left behind a few novels that were very popular in the 1970’s. Sourcebooks is bringing back beloved romance novels and reprinting them as a part of Casablanca Classics.

Sourcebooks usually does a fantastic job with book covers, but this book cover is terrible. Readers who pick it up looking for a bodice ripper will be disappointed and probably give this novel bad reviews for not meeting expectations. Other readers, who do not like bodice ripper novels, will miss the sweet historical fiction romantic adventure that it is. I hope that this review will help to sway some people to give it a chance and to convince Sourcebooks to put a different cover on it and future Speas publications.

Overall, look past the cover and read a great historical fiction romance with great characters set during the War of 1812!

Have you ever read a book with a cover that was totally inappropriate for the type of novel that it really was? Share your stories!

This is my third selection for the Historical Fiction Reading Challenge.

Book Source: Advance Review Copy from Sourcebooks. Thank-you!

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Pale Rose of England by Sandra Worth

1497. England. A handsome man with Plantagenet looks has returned to the shores of England with his bride in tow claiming to be Richard, the younger of the “princes in the tower,” and son of Edward IV. He plans to battle for his birth right to be the king of England, but plans have a way of not always working out.

Lady Catherine Gordon is a member of the Scottish Royalty, daughter of George Gordon, the Earl of Huntley. She meets and falls in love with Richard, the Duke of York. He managed to escape his fate as one of the two “princes in the tower,” and has been accepted by all of European royalty as the true king of England. He will go down in history as Perkin Warbeck, “the pretender,” but to Catherine he is her soul mate, her love, the father of her children, and a true prince of England. Together they journey to England to fight for the crown, but the Tudor King, Henry VII is not ready to part with it. Catherine and Richard’s story is a true story of love and heartbreak that will pierce your soul.

I loved the Pale Rose of England. The love story between Catherine and Richard is a beautiful story. Catherine’s love for Richard and her ability to stick with him through high and low is a wonderful story of a remarkable and courageous woman who knows the true value of love and marriage. Her heartbreak over Richard and her son Dickon are heart rending. I was moved to tears by this book, and not too many books have that affect on me. I’d like to discuss the plot in more detail, but I do not want to ruin it for those that have yet to read it!

Sandra Worth is one of my favorite historical fiction authors. I discovered her novels a couple of years ago through J. Kaye’s Book Blog. The first novel I read was Lady of the Roses and it was a wonderful historical fiction novel set during a compelling period of conflict (the War of Roses) with two great lovers whose story was little known (at least by me!). I loved it! I have enjoyed each novel I’ve read since then, and Pale Rose of England adds to her list of wonderful novels. It is again a wonderful, but tragic true love story set during a fascinating time in history.

Ms. Worth writes with beautiful prose. One of my favorite passages in this book is as follows, “Treasure the happiness, Catryn. ‘Tis only when darkness falls that the stars come out. Honor our love with your smiles. Look for me in the stars, and wherever I am, I will live in your happiness.” Richard to Catherine.

Overall, Pale Rose of England is an outstanding historical fiction novel set during a compelling time with great characters, great writing, and a wonderful love story. I highly recommend it.

This is my second novel for the Historical Fiction Reading Challenge.

Book Source: Review Copy from Penguin Books. Thank-you!

Monday, February 21, 2011

Winners of The Mistress' House by Leigh Michaels

The two lucky winners of The Mistress' House by Leigh Michaels are Linda and Terri of Bodice Ripper Novels. Congrats to both winners! Both winners were chosen using and have been notified via email. If I don't hear from them by Friday, February 25th, new winners will be chosen.

Thank-you to Danielle from Sourcebooks for allowing me to host this giveaway. A special thank-you to Leigh Michaels for allowing me to interview her and for showing on on my blog to answer comments from readers! That was super nice of you!

Thank-you to all who read my review and Leigh's interview and for entering the giveaway. Sad you didn't win? I still have two giveaways currently going (see right sidebar) and will be posting a new one within the next couple of days. Stay tuned!

Friday, February 18, 2011

Jane Odiwe, author of Mr. Darcy's Secret, Guest Blog and GIVEAWAY!

Mr. Darcy’s Secret is a witty novel with an intriguing premise and great love story that kept me reading too long into the night (see the rest of my review here). I am lucky today to have author Jane Odiwe on Laura's Reviews to discuss her new novel, Mr. Darcy's Secret.

Mr. Darcy's Secret by Jane Odiwe

Thank you, Laura, for inviting me to talk to you about my new book, Mr. Darcy’s Secret.

I did a great deal of research when I was writing the book, and some of it involved travelling to Derbyshire where Jane’s ‘Lambton’ and ‘Pemberley’ were set. I was lucky enough to go on two separate occasions stopping in the pretty town of Bakewell, which may have provided the inspiration for ‘Lambton’, and also Beeley, a village on the Chatsworth estate. A walk I took along the river from the village of Beeley to Chatsworth and back again inspired this short excerpt. The bridge mentioned is based on a real one, the medieval bridge at Bakewell. It was a beautiful, sunny day as I walked through the fields following the course of the river – I just had to include a description in Mr. Darcy’s Secret. I hope you enjoy it.

Donning her sturdiest boots and a beloved cloak from her Longbourn days, which was warm and comfortable if not considered as smart as others in her new wardrobe, she set off. Out of doors, Elizabeth instantly felt better in the fresh air with a light rain misting her features, the smell of Derbyshire limestone and the scent of moss sprinkled like green jewels upon stone walls assailing her senses. Following the river on the shortcut to Lambton bridge, she took pleasure in observing the riverbank twisting and curving with the rushing water moving swiftly in between, glinting like steel knives when the afternoon sun decided to make a brief appearance. Ancient trees dipped their gnarled fingers into the rushing torrent as their branches arched over her head dripping raindrops onto her hood. Walking was sublime exercise when the outlook was so beautiful and Lizzy made rapid progress becoming almost disappointed as the sight of a few scattered cottages and the medieval bridge with its five arches and triangular cutwaters came into view. Crossing the bridge she paused to watch the waterbirds for a moment. There were few people about and of those who walked none seemed to take much notice of her for which she was grateful. She knew if she had arrived in a carriage or dressed in her best pelisse it might have been a different matter. It was lovely to be anonymous for a change and the sense of freedom that she felt such as she had enjoyed in the old days almost overwhelmed her. Chiding herself for being silly and sentimental she continued over the bridge and turned into the lane leading to the High Street. It had been her intention to turn round and walk straight back to Pemberley, but now she was here she was struck by the idea of calling on Mrs Butler. That she could send news to her Aunt Gardiner about her friend seemed a wonderful idea.
Giveaway Details
Beth of Sourcebooks has been kind enough to offer two copies of Mr. Darcy's Secret by Jane Odiwe for a giveaway.
If you would like to win a copy of Mr. Darcy's Secret, please leave a comment about what intrigues you about the novel or this fantastic guest post.
As part of your comment, you must include an email address. If I can't find a way to contact you I will draw another winner.

For an additional entry, blog about this giveaway or post it on your sidebar. Provide a link to this post in your comment.I will be using (or a monte carlo simulation in excel) to pick the winners from the comments.

This contest is only open to US and Canadian residents (Sorry!).No P.O. Boxes.

The deadline for entry is midnight, Friday March 4th.
Good luck!

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Working Mothers and a Great Story by Karen S. Bell

I recently reviewed a novel that really spoke to me as a mother and a wife. That novel was Walking with Elephants by Karen S. Bell. I'm lucky today to have Karen on my blog talking about how she came up for the great story in Walking for Elephants and about the hard work of being a mother in today's society. Thank-you Karen!

I also admit I was going to give away my beloved review copy of this novel to help spread the word . . . but my book club convinced me not too. They all want to read the book too so I'm going to be passing it around book club instead. It will be a great book for us to talk about!

How did I come up with my story?
by Karen S. Bell

The most often asked question is how did I come up with my story? I can pinpoint a moment when the story’s underlying message hit me like a ton of-bricks–but I’ll get to that later. What drove me to write this novel–was how much I’ve seen change in the way of families and family life. Women have definitely become contributors to society in force but there have been many sacrifices because of that which have changed the bucolic nostalgia of the American stereotypical household.

Working women become working mothers and life becomes a juggling act but kids demands remain the same and satisfying those demands become major challenges. Along with women becoming more powerful, the divorce rate is so high that I believe that before long, a large sector of our culture will do away with marriage. Divorce is harrowing and expensive and the only winners are the lawyers, who I am sorry to say fuel the hatred even when children are involved.

I’m old enough to remember when most households remained intact, most women stayed home, and neighbors were friendly. We are isolated now from one another, overworked with demanding jobs and running households part time. In suburbia, after long commutes mothers get into cars and remain there during most of their discretionary time, carpooling or grocery shopping.

I applaud the working mother who manages it all–but I think they need help. I think that corporate America and women can be creative about being able to mother full time and find fulfilling employment that provides the now necessary second income. How? Maybe job sharing is the answer, maybe there is another idea out there. Much longer maternity leave. Supportive and mentoring women at work who help each other when kids’ need mommy today and mommy does not have to take a vacation day to provide that nurturing. Somehow we have to give a nod to yesteryear, stop for a moment and take a beat and reassess.

Raising children is so important. They are our future, they need to nurtured by a parent not a caregiver. We need to imprint on our children. Make them all they can be with mom and dad yelling on the sidelines, not stuck in front of a computer somewhere.

Let’s take back our families AND be workers but we have to figure out how to do it. And I really haven’t a clue how to get it done but I have some ideas.

What was my aha moment for this book? When I came upon a woman pumping her breast in the ladies room at work. I thought how sad that there is a baby crying some where and mommy isn’t there to provide.

Maybe we can come to a place in this country where mommy and baby could be at work together.

For more great discussion of Walking with Elephants, check out Karen Bell's blog at

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Mr. Darcy’s Secret by Jane Odiwe

Mr. Darcy had a life before he met, feel in love with, and married Elizabeth Bennet. What if during this life, Mr. Darcy had a past that he was ashamed of and did not want to share with his new bride? What could be this shameful secret?

This is the plot of Jane Odiwe’s new novel, Mr. Darcy’s Secret. While the secret is a large part of the plot, the secondary story line is also intriguing. Georgiana Darcy is growing and loves having a new sister in Elizabeth. She meets an intriguing landscape designer in Lambton, Tom Butler that is entirely unsuitable for her. Fearing to disappoint her brother after the Wickham affair, Georgiana tries to please her suitor Hugh Calladine, a neighbor of fine family and fortune that also happens to be in love with another woman. Will Georgiana find true love?

I love Jane Odiwe’s style of writing. Her writing has a lively wit that makes the scenes come alive. Odiwe writes the beloved characters of Pride and Prejudice in the same style as Jane Austen. I had many times throughout the novel that I laughed at something Mrs. Bennet, Lydia Wickham, Caroline Bingley, etc. said or did that was so in character and so clever of Odiwe’s writing.

I also enjoyed the plot of this novel. I really wanted to know Mr. Darcy’s secret! As I read along though, I realized that even more than Mr. Darcy’s secret, I really wanted to know what would happen to Georgiana and Tom Butler. Tom Butler was the “Elizabeth Bennet” of this story, so unsuitable, but yet, so attractive. He said and did things that were not always proper, but were more truthful than the proper people such as Hugh Calladine.

Overall, Mr. Darcy’s Secret was a witty novel with an intriguing premise and great love story that kept me reading too long into the night. I recommend it for all lovers of Pride and Prejudice.

Jane Odiwe will be a guest on Laura’s Reviews this Friday February 18th. Please stop back by to read her interview on Friday!

Book Source: Advance Review Copy from Sourcebooks. Thank-you!

Monday, February 14, 2011

Colonel Richard Fitzwilliam Guest Post (and GIVEAWAY!) by Karen V. Wasylowski

Colonel Richard Fitzwilliam by Karen V. Wasylowski (author of Darcy and Fitzwilliam)

The internet calls him the nameless second son of an Earl, not very good looking in the popular sense but blessed with charm and wit. He appears in only a few pages of Pride and Prejudice but his existence is vital to the story, his importance to the Darcy family immense - he shares guardianship with his cousin for the precious Georgiana. And why would a father entrust the care of his only daughter to not only his son but his nephew? It followed that the nephew had to be as close to the family as a son.

That was my thought process as I watched the lovely 2005 movie Pride and Prejudice, especially the scene at the dining table when Aunt Catherine is enacting the Spanish Inquisition with Elizabeth. Oh how I love Judy Dench. I would watch her in a commercial and she would probably be nominated for an award. Darcy looks up briefly and catches the eye of his cousin. The look they exchange is the same one countless of young people have exchanged through the years as they sit politely by and listen to the ranting of their elders. It is hopefully respectful, seldom patient but always terribly embarrassing when strangers are present. I remember rolling my eyes around at my mother’s comments to such an extent that it’s amazing the orbs remained in their sockets.

Anyway, now my nieces and nephews do that with me.

So, writing the character of Fitzwilliam and his brotherly love/competition/loyalty to his cousin Darcy began. For my research on the Peninsular War I read the wonderful Bernard Cornwell books about Richard Sharpe, a rifleman in Wellington’s army who, due to his bravery, rises through the ranks from private to colonel. There are twenty-five ‘Sharpe’ books in all, covering each major battle of the Peninsular War, Waterloo and its aftermath. The internet helped explain any of the confusing details; each battle is covered so completely by the many groups still discussing that long war. It is a period of time that I find fascinating, the importance of that campaign still relevant today.

I have always loved stories about family and love, and the struggles we all experience as we bump along, trying to lead a decent life. We all fail occasionally but it’s the pulling yourself up and going on that counts. I see that in both Darcy and Fitzwilliam. They support each other; and, although they are both proud and stubborn, both with different outlooks of life, different temperaments, different lifestyles, the bonds of family and love will carry them through to another day.

If not, they’ll box each other’s ears.

Giveaway Details
Beth of Sourcebooks has been kind enough to offer one copy of Darcy and Fitzwilliam by Karen V. Wasylowski for a giveaway.

If you would like to win a copy of Darcy and Fitzwilliam, please leave a comment about what intrigues you about the novel, this fantastic guest post, or Colonel Fitzwilliam in general.

As part of your comment, you must include an email address. If I can't find a way to contact you I will draw another winner.

For an additional entry, blog about this giveaway or post it on your sidebar. Provide a link to this post in your comment.

I will be using (or a monte carlo simulation in excel) to pick the winners from the comments.

This contest is only open to US and Canadian residents (Sorry!).

No P.O. Boxes.

The deadline for entry is midnight, Friday February 25th.

Good luck!

Winner of Sins of the House of Borgia by Sarah Bower!

The lucky winner of an early copy of Sins of the House of Boriga by Sarah Bower is Shannon. Shannon was chosen using and has been notified via email. She has until this Friday, February 18th, to send me her mailing address. If I don't hear from her, I will draw a new winner!

Sad you didn't win this novel? It will be released in bookstores everywhere on March 8th. I also have a giveaway going for The Mistress' House until this Friday as seen on my sidebar. Stay tuned and there will be a new giveaway on this blog today and one later this week.

Thank-you to Beth from Sourcebooks for this great giveaway and to all who entered!

Friday, February 11, 2011

The Reef by Nora Roberts

The Reef was the February pick for the FLICKS Book and Movie Club. Its tropical location and treasure hunting adventure were perfect reading during a cold and snowy Wisconsin winter. I was reading it last week during the snowpocalypse. When you can’t get away to a tropical destination in the winter, reading about one is the next best thing.

Tate Beaumont is an undergraduate who loves marine archeology, scuba diving, and hunting for treasure. Tate, her father Ray, and mother Marla have taken their boat to the Caribbean to search for the sunken Santa Marguerite. They soon team up with Buck and Matthew Lassiter, the two remaining members of a famed family of treasure hunters. The Lassiters are looking for Angelique’s Curse, a beautiful necklace with a tragic past. Sparks fly between Tate and Matthew. They hit the wrong note with each other, but are also attracted by each other Unfortunately the Lassiter’s nemesis; VanDyke also has his eyes on the treasure and the treasure hunters. I don’t want to say too much more and give away the plot of the entire book!

I really enjoyed this novel. As I said previously there is nothing better to read than a tropical adventure story during the midst of a Wisconsin winter. I also loved the treasure hunting – I’ve always been fascinated by treasure stories. I also enjoy that Nora Roberts always writes about strong female characters with surprising careers. They aren’t just lawyers or nurses like in so many books and TV shows. I loved that Tate is a marine archaelogist. She starts off the novel as a student, but becomes a successful career woman in her own right.

My only negative with the novel was at times it seemed like the treasure was found a little too easily. It seems like they were too incredibly lucky to find more than one pristine ship in the shallow waters of the Caribbean. It kind of annoyed me, but I was able to move on!

Overall, I loved the adventure, characters, setting, and surprise plot twists of this novel. I would rate this as one of my favorite Nora Roberts novels – but I am by no means the aficionado that my friends Jenn and Carol are!

Book Source: The Kewaunee Public Library

The Charmer by Kate Hoffmann

This was an optional book for my FLICKS Book and Movie Club this month. The Charmer is a very steamy romance novel that is set in Door County, Wisconsin (the county directly to the north of where I live!). The author, Kate Hoffman, is also a native of Southeastern, Wisconsin. I think it’s safe to call this novel and author, a Literary Local.

The Charmer is the story of two serial daters, Publisher Alex Stamos, and troubled artist Tenley Marshall. Alex wants to sign a great new graphic novelist, T.J. Marshall to his publishing house and travels north to Door County to sign this new talent. Unfortunately he decided driving a sports car to northern Wisconsin in the dead of winter was a good plan and ends up stuck in a snow bank. He is rescued by Tenley and doesn’t realize at first that she is the artist he is looking for. They share a hot night of passion and over a course of a week decide that maybe serial dating isn’t such a good thing and it might be time to settle down.

While most of my book club members seemed to love the romance of this book, I didn’t care for it. I did like the setting, although certain details seemed off (locals calling people from Chicago “Flatlanders” – I’ve never heard that before). I guess I didn’t really like either Tenley or Alex and couldn’t relate to them. They were both rather wrapped up in themselves and didn’t have much time for anyone else. I found the story a bit hard to believe as well. Am I becoming cynical in my old age? I couldn’t believe that nights of wild sex after just meeting could ultimately lead to true love. But to each their own – I felt this way about the novel, but as I said, many members of my book club loved the characters and story. I did like how both characters had growth throughout the novel and actually would have liked to read more about their development after the novel’s conclusion.

I have to discuss the cover . . . while the cover has a sexy, unkempt looking logger on the front; this is not what Alex Stamos would look like at all. First of all, Alex is from Chicago. Secondly he is usually wearing a suit and well kempt. While I like the logger on the cover, the cover should really reflect the book!

Book Source: The Kewaunee Public Library

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Interview (and GIVEAWAY) with Leigh Michaels, author of The Mistress' House

I recently read and enjoyed a new regency romance by Leigh Michaels, The Mistress' House (see my review here). I am honored today to have Leigh Michaels on my blog for an interview to answer all of my questions about the novel. Readers of this blog know that I always love a good regency romance novel!

LAG: I enjoyed the unique narrative structure of The Mistress' House. What inspired you to tell the tale of not just one couple, but several couples that get together because of a house?

LM: I hate to admit it, but this was almost an accident. When I started writing Anne and Thorne’s story, I really believed it was a short story. Then it turned into a novella, and I didn’t know quite what direction to take it until my critique partner happened to say, “Perhaps there are other stories.” That prompted me to think about what might happen to that delightful house after my first heroine didn’t need it anymore…

LAG: The Mistress' House is set during one of my favorite time periods, Regency England. Have you set any of your previous novels during this time period or was this something new for you

LM: I have always loved the Regency period and I’ve wanted to write a book set there. But my contemporary series romances kept me busy, so The Mistress’ House is the first book I’ve finished which is set in a historical period.

LAG: I see in the acknowledgments that you did a research trip in London for this novel. Do you have any exciting stories to share? Did any actual houses in London inspire The Mistress' House?
LM: I was fortunate to spend seven weeks in London a few years ago, house-sitting a flat in Maida Vale, and my husband and I walked all over London. There was a house at Number 5, Upper Seymour Street in the 1810s – the footprint and garden outline show up on old maps. Since there are no photos or drawings, I imagined the house – but it lay alongside Berkeley Mews as described in the book. It’s now the site of the Hyatt Regency Hotel, and I walked by it regularly during our stay.

LAG: You are a prolific romance author. What are some of the favorite books that you have written? What is next for you?

LM: I’ve written 80 contemporary romances, and I’m now in the process of re-editing many of them for release as e-books. I’d have to say my favorites depend more on the writing process than the story – the books which went together smoothly are much higher on my fondness scale than the ones I struggled with and rewrote! – but I’m pleased to find as I re-read them now that many of the stories are still favorites.

Next up for me is another Regency. In Just One Season in London, each member of the Ryecroft family – Viscount Ryecroft, his lovely sister Sophie, and their mother – tries to provide for the others… whatever it takes! Then in November Sourcebooks will release The Wedding Affair, where a group of guests gathered at a grand country estate for a society wedding have anything but marriage on their minds. (LAG - These sound great! I can't wait to read them!)

LAG: What books/authors are on your shelf?
LM: I read a lot of general fiction and non-fiction. Right now, I’m reading Amanda Quick’s The Third Circle, a Sue Grafton mystery, Donald Harstad’s Iowa-based police procedurals, and Robert Goolrick’s A Reliable Wife. Yes, all at the same time.

Three beautifully intertwined love stories…

The rules are made to be broken…
When the handsome, rakish Earl of Hawthorne buys the charming house across the back garden from his town home, he never expects the lovely lady he installs there to ensnare him completely…

After Lady Keighley marries the earl, it seems a shame to leave the house empty, so she offers it to her childhood friend Felicity Mercer, who discovers that the earl’s gorgeous cousin is precisely the man she’s been waiting for…

and again…
Finally, feisty Georgiana Baxter moves into the house to escape an arranged marriage, and encounters the earl’s friend Major Julian Hampton late one night in the back garden. The handsome soldier is more than willing to give her the lessons she asks for…

There is plenty of gossip, scandal, and torrid speculations surrounding the “mistress’ house”, but behind closed doors, passions blaze…

Leigh Michaels is the author of nearly 100 books, including 80 contemporary novels and more than a dozen non-fiction books. More than 35 million copies of her romance novels have been published by Harlequin. A 6 time RITA finalist, she has also received two Reviewer's Choice awards from Romantic Times, and was the 2003 recipient of the Johnson Brigham Award. She is the author of On Writing Romance, published by Writers Digest Books. Leigh also teaches romance writing on the Internet at Gotham Writers’ Workshop. She lives in Ottumwa, Iowa. For more information, please visit

Giveaway Details
Danielle of Sourcebooks has been kind enough to offer two copies of The Mistress' House by Leigh Michaels for a giveaway.If you would like to win a copy of The Mistress' House, please leave a comment about what intrigues you about the novel or this interview.

As part of your comment, you must include an email address. If I can't find a way to contact you I will draw another winner.

For an additional entry, blog about this giveaway or post it on your sidebar. Provide a link to this post in your comment.

I will be using (or a monte carlo simulation in excel) to pick the winners from the comments.

This contest is only open to US and Canadian residents(Sorry!).

No P.O. Boxes.

The deadline for entry is midnight, Friday February 18th.

Good luck!

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Giveaway - Sins of the House of Borgia by Sarah Bower

Beth from Sourcebooks has graciously allowed me to giveaway one copy of Sins of the House of Borgia by Sarah Bower. This novel will be released on March 8th so the lucky winner will have a chance to get a head start on this novel!

I will be posting a review of this novel in March and will be hosting Sarah Bower on March 16th so stay tuned!

Book Description (from Sourcebooks):
Violante isn’t supposed to be here, in one of the grandest courts of Renaissance Italy. She isn’t supposed to be a lady-in-waiting to the beautiful Lucrezia Borgia. But the same secretive politics that pushed Lucrezia’s father to the Vatican have landed Violante deep in a lavish landscape of passion and ambition.

Violante discovers a Lucrezia unknown to those who see only a scheming harlot, and all the whispers about her brother, Cesare Borgia, never revealed the soul of the man who dances close with Violante.

But those who enter the House of Borgia are never quite the same when they leave—if they leave at all. Violante’s place in history will test her heart and leave her the guardian of dangerous secrets she must carry to the grave.

About Sarah Bower (from Sourcebooks)
Sarah Bower is literature development officer for Creative Arts East and teaches creative writing at the University of East Anglia. She was the UK editor of Historical Novels Review for two years, until the beginning of 2006, when she stepped down to make more time for her own writing. With the highly talked about Spring 2011 premiere of Showtime’s new series The Borgias, there is no doubt this notorious and legendary crime family will soon be in the spotlight.

Giveaway Details
Beth of Sourcebooks has been kind enough to offer one copy of Sins of the House of Borgia by Sarah Bower for a giveaway.If you would like to win a copy of Sins of the House of Borgia, please leave a comment about what intrigues you about the novel.

As part of your comment, you must include an email address. If I can't find a way to contact you I will draw another winner.

For an additional entry, blog about this giveaway or post it on your sidebar. Provide a link to this post in your comment.

I will be using (or a monte carlo simulation in excel) to pick the winners from the comments.

This contest is only open to US and Canadian residents (Sorry!).

No P.O. Boxes.

The deadline for entry is midnight, Friday February 11th.

Good luck!

The Mistress’ House by Leigh Michaels

The Mistress’ House is a regency romance novel that centers on the passion inspired by one house, the mistress’ house. Instead of focusing on one love story, The Mistress’ House centers on three different couples that are brought together by the one house. The Mistress’ House is a “hot” romance with plenty of scandalous happenings at the mistress’ house. It’s a good way to warm up a cold and snowy winter night!

The Earl of Hawthorne, Thorne, is convinced to buy a house that neighbors his garden by his man of business, Perkins. Perkins notes that the Earl would be able to keep down the gossip about his adventures by installing his latest mistress at Number Five Upper Seymour Street. Thorne agrees to the plan and before he knows it, a mysterious widow, Lady Anne Keighley, is asking him to “ruin” her so that she can lead a life of independence and not be forced to remarry by her brother.

Thorne’s cousin Richard, Lord Colfax, has met a beautiful lady who is staying at Number Five Upper Seymour Street. Anne’s friend, Felicity is beautiful and longs for the man who could not marry her due to familial obligations, Roger. Roger has passed away, but his brother Richard is a handsome man and just might make Felicity able to forget her past love.

Thorne’s ward, Goergiana Baxter, is trying to hide from her uncle and a forced marriage by staying at Number Five Upper Seymour Street. One evening she meets Thorne’s cousin Julian Silsby in the garden. Julian has just returned from fighting Napolean and is also trying to escape an arranged marriage. Sparks fly between the two, especially after Georginia ask Julian to teach her how to be a mistress.

The Mistress’ House is not high literature, but it is a good, fun romance novel to read. I sometimes just want something light and entertaining to read that I don’t have to think too much about, and this book fit the bill. I liked that it was three romance stories in one novel.

Overall, The Mistress’ House is a unique regency romance novel that is full of hot romance, great characters, and fun stories.

Check back tomorrow for an interview with author Leigh Michaels!

Book Source: Advance Review Copy from Sourcebooks. Thank-you!

Darcy and Fitzwilliam by Karen V. Wasylowski

Fitzwilliam Darcy and Colonel Richard Fitzwilliam are cousins and friends in Pride and Prejudice. While Mr. Darcy is rich, proud and reserved, Colonel Fitzwilliam is the second son of an Earl, poor and lively. In Darcy and Fitzwilliam, this friendship is explored.

Volume I, Fitzwilliam Darcy: A gentleman, the story of Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth continues directly after their marriage. Colonel Fitzwilliam has come to visit his beloved cousin after returning home from the Napoleonic war. While Elizabeth and Darcy are happy, Darcy is saddened at the breach between himself and his Aunt Catherine. Fitzwilliam helps Elizabeth to understand the importance of Lady Catherine to Darcy’s life, and Elizabeth learns that Lady Catherine, Mr. Darcy, and Fitzwilliam are really one big dysfunctional family. They may have more money than the Bennets, but they also have their own faults.

Elizabeth also learns about Mr. Darcy’s unsavory past with Caroline Bingley. Elizabeth grows quite enraged and smashes crockery and ruins furniture. I thought this was quite out of character for her and didn’t really like it.

Volume II is entitled Colonel Richard Fitzwilliam: An Officer. Fitzwilliam has returned from war a celebrated hero. He vows to find himself a rich heiress to wed, but instead falls in love with a lovely American widow named Amanda. Amanda cannot remarry as she will lose the custody of her young son because of the conniving of her late husband and her mother-in-law. Fitzwilliam pursues her anyway and the two try to find a way to be together.

I was annoyed throughout the text by Colonel Fitzwilliam continuously calling Mr. Darcy “brat” for a nickname. It seemed out of character for them both and rather jarring whenever it was put into the text.

I loved the cover of this novel. I thought it was quite a good looking cover, although I can’t really imagine Mr. Darcy running after Colonel Fitzwilliam like that!

Overall, I thought the novel was rather uneven. I really liked some aspects of it, such as Colonel Fitzwilliam’s love story. I also thought it did the best job of any book I’ve read of really humanizing Lady Catherine. On the other hand, other aspects of it seemed very out of character such as Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth’s very spirited fighting and Caroline Bingley’s waywardness.

Book Source: Advance Review Copy from Sourcebooks. Thank-you!

Monday, February 7, 2011

I Have Found It

I watched I Have Found It for my first item for the Sense and Sensibility Bicentenary Challenge hosted by Austenprose. I Have Found It is a Kollywood (Tamil speaking cousin of Bollywood) film loosely based on Sense and Sensibility.

Two sisters, Sowmya and Meenakshi help their mother care for their ailing grandfather. Sowmya would love to get married, but it is rumored that she is “cursed” as her former fiancé came back from America dead. Sowmya places duty and family above love, but Meenakshi dreams of finding a romantic “white knight” to marry. Sowmya finds herself falling n love with Manohar, an aspiring filmmaker who returns her love. Manohar is an engineer, but he doesn’t want to go into the family business or marry Sowmya until he has made his first film.

Major Bala is a drunken flower grower who falls in love with Meenakshi. Meenakshi inspires Major Bala to stop drinking and to pursue her through music. His hopes are dashed when businessman Srikanth rescues Meenakshi after a fall and they fall in love over poetry.
After the death of their grandfather, Sowmya and Meenakshi find that their mother was disowned because their grandfather did not approve of her marriage, and their uncle who has not visited in ten years is left with everything. The family moves from their estate and tries to find means to support themselves. Sowmya initially finds work as a secretary, but soon puts her computer programming skills to use to get a better job.

Love also runs into trouble when Manohar appears to be in love with his leading lady and Srikanth disappears after business woes. Will Sowmya and Meenakshi be able to find true love?

While I Have Found It is set in a different place and time, I thought it did a great job of updating Sense and Sensibility to modern day India. In fact India with its arranged marriages and family obligations, allows the story to be more like the source material then if it were set in modern day England. I’m going to break it down and compare the I Have Found It characters to their Sense and Sensibility counterparts.

Major Bala as the “Colonel Brandon” of the story is given more of a back story showing his military experience. He also is missing a leg, unlike Colonel Brandon. He doesn’t have the tragic past love story of Colonel Brandon, but he does try to inspire Meenakshi, Marianne, through music just like his counterpart.

Manohar is the “Edward Ferrars” of the story. I thought he was livelier than Edward Ferrars and he definitely was more able to express his feelings to Sowmya than Edward was to Elinor. There is no Lucy Ferrars subplot in this movie, although Manohar and Sowmya has difficulties because of Sowmya’s perceived bad luck and also the rumors that Manohar is involved with his leading lady.

Srikanth is as mysterious as Mr. Willoughby in the original novel. He rescues Meenakshi in a rain storm after she has twisted her ankle and carries her home, a scene reminiscent of the 1995 Sense and Sensibility movie. Srikanth and Meenakshi fall in love over poetry, but then Srikanth mysteriously disappears because of business troubles. There is a meeting again later with a marriage that must take place to save the business all very reminiscent of the original novel. I didn’t think that Srikanth and Meenakshi had enough time falling in love in this movie.

Sowmya is the responsible Elinor that will marry for family obligations and also tries to keep her family afloat during financial hard times. I loved that Sowmya was a computer programmer (yeah women in science!), but I thought she was a little too emotional about her bad luck. The bad luck was not in the original novel.

Meenakshi is a very romantic Marianne and is able to sing her way through the movie. She has tragic love, and much sadness. The actress, who played Meenakshi, Aishwarya Rai, was also in Bride and Prejudice. She has a beautiful singing voice.

Overall, I enjoyed the movie and thought it was an interesting twist on the original classic, complete with great songs and scenery. It does not replace my beloved 1995 version of Sense and Sensibility, but it was something different to watch!

Movie Source: The Kewaunee Public Library

Dust by Elizabeth Bear

I really, really, really hate to not finish a book. But I also dislike forcing myself to read something I extremely dislike when there are so many good books to read.

I really wanted to like the novel Dust by Elizabeth Bear. It is the January 2010 selection for the Woman of Sci-Fi Online Book Club. I like science fiction and I like women authors so it seemed like a great challenge to me.

I got about to page 132 of Dust and that is as far as I could get. It probably didn’t help that I was sick, but every time I tried to read Dust, day, after day, after day, I would literally fall asleep as soon as I would try to read it. It happened quite consistently. The novel I read directly after dust (Walking with Elephants) had the opposite problem, I couldn’t put it down.

Dust is a strange science fiction novel. Rien is a servant for Ariane, a Princess of the House of Rule. Rien is sent to care for Perceval, an angel whose wings were severed by Ariane on the battlefield. Rien soon learns that she is actually Perceval’s sister and helps her to escape. Watching over them all is the mysterious figure, Jacob Dust. That is about all I could gather while I was reading the book. It seems like they were all on a large mysterious space ship. But I couldn’t really tell what they were on, what exactly they were fighting about, or what exactly they were. It was rather aggravating.

Great science fiction to me has compelling characters and a great story that sets your mind in motion. I didn't like any of the characters in this book and the storyline was hard to follow and boring.

Did I give up on this book too soon? Does anyone else have a great love for this novel? Have you ever tried to read a novel and you just couldn’t get into it?

Book Source: The Kewaunee Public Library

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Walking with Elephants by Karen S. Bell

My posting for this wonderful novel comes a bit late. A terrible flu has struck my family which led for at least two of us at a time to be ill for the past week and a half. I had a high fever for four days myself. Add to that the Blizzard of 2011 (we’re right on the Lake Michigan shore and got a lot of snow!) and some strange happenings at my work, and therefore, not much activity has been happening on my blog as of late.

Walking with Elephants is a novel that really spoke to me. Suze Hall is a middle aged woman that has hit a crisis in her life. Her three children are all in school, with the eldest in college. Her husband, Bob, is a college professor. Suze herself is back in the workplace as an editor after being out of the game for years as a stay-at-home mother. Suze finds herself stressed out to the max. Her nemesis at work, Wanda, has just been promoted to be her boss. Suze is still expected to have dinner on the table and to perform all of her stay-at-home Mom duties, although she is now a full time worker. Bob has decided to take a six-month sabbatical in Australia without asking Suze, and Suze’s college sweetheart, David, has suddenly made reappearance in her life. Will Suze be able to navigate life as a modern day woman and be able to pull it all together?

I loved this book and thought that it perfectly summed up many of the problems that I face and that I know a lot of my fellow mothers also face. The novel is actually set in the 1990’s and Suze is actually more of a contemporary of my mother who was also born in 1950’s, married in the 1970’s, and had teenage children in the 1990’s. That led to some differences between how things are handled in marriages I think, but the problems are mostly the same.

First of all, what about Bob? Bob is a loving husband, but he is also a clueless husband. After getting home from working all day, Bob sits down on the couch with a beverage in one hand, and a remote in the other and relaxes while he shouts to Suze for dinner. Suze has also just returned from work and tries to hurry up and get something ready for dinner for her hungry husband and kids who provide no assistance. All I can say is thank goodness I am married to a modern caring and sensitive man who at least takes the baby while I cook dinner and knows that if he shouts for it while watching TV, he is likely not going to get any dinner. Are any of you married to a “Bob?”

Bob also is clueless about Suze when he takes a sabbatical in Australia and leaves his family for six months. It seems like such a major decision should have been a family decision instead of a personal one. Suze feels that way, but doesn’t seem to be able to tell Bob this and how she finds her own career to be important too until Bob is already gone. Bob and Suze have major communication problems, but luckily they both work on it throughout the course of the novel.

Suze feels the inner turmoil that most modern mothers face. She wanted to be a good mother so she stayed home with her children, but her career suffered from this fact. In her work place, Suze is targeted by Wanda, a woman who chose career over family. Wanda does not appreciate the fact that Suze does well at her job and has managed to have a family. She switches Suze to “art” something Suze knows nothing about in hopes that Suze will fail. Elliot, Suze’s best friend at work, tries to help Suze out, but she is able to help herself when she runs into David, her ex-college boyfriend who has become a world renowned artist. With Bob gone in Australia, will Suze be able to handle meeting the love of her life again?

Suze also has a great relationship with her friend Marcia. Marcia appears to have it all, except for the fact that she hasn’t found her own true love. Suze is able to talk about her problems and about problems that all women face with Marcia.

Walking with Elephants not only has a great plot, but I love the style of writing in this book. Karen S. Bell has a fun and witty style of writing. I couldn’t put this book down and whipped through it quickly.

It also spoke personally to me as I have a hard time trying to make everything go. I want to stay home with my kids, but I also love being an engineer. I work part-time and there never seems to be enough time in the day to be able to focus on being a mother or on being a top-notch engineer. Engineering is a man’s world and the only few women on top in my career are women without families. Sometimes I have been made to feel that I’ve thrown my career away by having kids, but on the same topic, you get from the other side that you are a bad mother for not focusing totally on your kids and staying at home. You can’t win!

On that topic, I love this quote in Walking with Elephants, “What if along with this visibility, the role of mother was considered just as vital; just as important? What if motherhood was a valid experience to put on a resume? What if telecommuting made it possible to stay at home and be an executive? What if women could put their children in schools near their work? Nursed them in their offices? What if women were given a paid maternity leave of two-years so they cold imprint their moral character on their children and still keep their jobs? . . . . And countless other innovations that would be created from women’s needs and wants?”
Go Suze Hall – I want these innovations! I thought my work was great letting me work part-time from home, but only this week I was fired and not fired on the same day solely because I was a part-time person. A few years ago all part-time people were fired, and they all were mothers who had gone down to part-time to be able to spend more time with their children. I’ve also realized I won’t be advancing in my career until I am full-time again. Have any of you faced similar problems and situations?

Overall, I really loved this book. I think it was a great story and it brought up great topics. I think it would be a great book-club book.

This book review is part of the TLC Book Tours.

Book Source: A review copy from Literary Road Press. Thank-you!

Winners of The Perfect Bride for Mr. Darcy by Mary Lydon Simonsen

The family sickness has made me very behind on my blog! We are all back on the road to wellville, so please bear with me while I try to get my blog back up to date!

The two lucky winners of The Perfect Bride for Mr. Darcy by Mary Lydon Simonsen are Penelope Lolohea of The Reading Fever and RivkaBelle of A Word's Worth. Congrats to both winners! Winners were chosen using and were notified via email. They have until this Friday, February 11th, to send me their mailing addresses. If I don't hear from them by that time, I will draw new winners.

Thank-you to Danielle from Sourcebooks for allowing me to host this giveaway, to Mary Lydon Simonsen for a great book and interview, and to all who entered the giveaway. I have more giveaways that will be coming up over the next week or two so stay tuned!