Friday, May 8, 2009

MY PLEASURE by Connie Brockway

MY PLEASURE by Connie Brockway (Published by Pocket, September 28, 2004)
Three young men are driven by an oath they have taken unto themselves to pledge their service to the three surviving daughters of the man who gave his life to save theirs. As children, each of these young men had been saved from Scotland’s post Culloden destitution by monks to be honed and raised as warrior assassins. Bound together by their childhood horrors, raised as brothers, these three young men secretly assign themselves to one sister, telling the family that if ever they need assistance, the sisters should simply send a yellow rose to the Abbey at St. Bride’s in Scotland’s Highlands and they will be there as quickly as they can. Leaving behind a rare yellow rose bush with the family, they quietly leave and scatter to the four corners of the world.

Helena Nash has been living for the past four years as a paid companion to a miserable old harpy of the ton, Lady Tilpot and Lady Tilpot’s young, naïve and much spoiled niece, Lady Flora. A celebrated beauty, dignified, unassailable and gracefully reticent, Helena has had to suffer verbal indignities as the object of Lady Tilpot’s vicious tongue. Recently recruited by Flora to act as a messenger, Helena finds herself masquerading as a boy to deliver covert messages to Flora’s secret husband, who is on the run from moneylenders. Helena discovers a world and a freedom she has never known and covets. It is during such a masquerade that she encounters and recognizes one of her and her sister’s self-appointed guardians who is now London’s well-known master swordsman, Ramsey Munro.

Ramsey Munro has been living for the past four years in London as the owner of one of the premiere sword fighting salons, making his living teaching bored aristocrats his art, while at the same time, tantalizing the young ladies of the ton with his wit, charm and sinful good looks. All during this period, Ramsey has been covertly watching over Helena Nash, willing to use his body and his talents for her care. However, at some point during the years, his promise became a personal hobby, for he is fascinated with the cool, calm and quiet woman who sometimes showed flashes of passionate heat. Never forgetting his and his friends’ betrayal at the hands of an unknown which cost one of them their life, he is still hunting to uncover the identity of that traitor. It was during this pursuit, that he encounters Helena Nash masquerading as a boy and in some jeopardy from a bunch of young bucks.

MY PLEASURE, the second in Connie Brockway’s “Rose Hunter” series, is the story of Lord Nash’s second daughter, Helena, and master swordsman and trained warrior assassin, Ramsey Munro. The story is fast moving, full of mysteries, danger and is sexually charged. The repartee between the two characters is witty, intelligent and sparks with passion. Ramsey Munro embodies all those qualities that make up a hero. Helena Nash’s character proves the old adage “still waters run deep.” The scenes where Ramsey is teaching Helena to use a sword are sexy and entertaining. Ms. Brockway’s depiction of Lady Tilpot makes you thoroughly despise the old witch, and justly so. The flashback scenes of Ramsey’s young adulthood and his time in the dungeon makes you ache for what he endured. Ah, but the end . . . well, I’m not going to give away the delicious ending.

I thoroughly enjoyed MY PLEASURE, the second in Connie Brockway’s “Rose Hunter” series. (See my review of MY SEDUCTION posted here April 30th.) I highly recommend it. ;)

I will be reading the final book in the series MY SURRENDER and reviewing it soon.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009


AT LAST COMES LOVE by Mary Balogh (Dell Publishing, April 28, 2009)
Margaret Huxtable made a promise to her father on his deathbed that she would care for her two younger sisters and brothers until they were grown and could take care of themselves. Because of her promise, she wouldn't leave her family when her childhood friend and love, Crispin Dew, asked her to marry him and "follow the drum." Meg remained faithful and waits for the day when Crispin would return home from his Majesty's service because they had an "understanding." Years later, however, she learns that Crispin has married and she is devastated. But, she must remain strong and hold the family together, so she buries her hurt and disappointment and continues on with her vow.

At the time of this story, she is 30 years old, her sisters are happily married and her brother now twenty-two years old. For the past twelve years, Meg has been selflessly putting the needs of her siblings before her own. She realizes that in a few years her brother will be turning his mind toward matrimony and she will be displaced as the lady of the manor. Meg doesn't want to become a burden to her family and decides it is time for her to think seriously about marriage before it is too late for her. She decides she will finally accept her erstwhile suitor, the Marquess of Allingham, as soon as she meets with him once again during the Season. Crispin has now returned to London, unexpectedly runs into Meg in Hyde Park and Meg pride fully and foolishly tells him that she is betrothed.

Five years ago, Duncan Pennethorne, Earl of Sheringford, left his bride at the alter and ran away with bride's married sister-in-law. Duncan is forced to return to London when his grandfather cuts off his funds and income from the family estate. The lady he ran away with has died, leaving Duncan with a son. He loves his son desperately and, for his sake, will do anything to be able to continue to support him, so he swallows his pride and confronts his grandfather, the Marquess of Claverbrook. He finagles an agreement with the Marquess that he if marries an eligible lady of good breeding in 16 days time, before the Marquess' 80th birthday, he will restore his family estate and income to him.

The scene is a ballroom. Duncan is there to find a prospective bride. Meg is there to renew her acquaintance with the Marquess of Allingham and hopefully accept his fourth proposal of marriage. Meg approaches her prospective bridegroom while he is in the process of introducing to his newly acquired fiancée to his friends. Shocked and in a panic, Meg rushes out of the ballroom and headlong into Duncan. Looking down at Meg, Duncan remarks: "What is your hurry? Why not stay and dance with me? And, then marry me and live happily ever after with me?" Startled out of her panic, Meg responds: "Does it have to be in that order?"

AT LAST COMES LOVE is undoubtedly the very best of Mary Balogh's Huxtable series to date. It is a story about trust, loneliness, honor and compassion. It is a story where you watch love develop gradually along with deep respect and admiration of character. As Duncan explains, not everything is as it seems and you discover, along with Meg, how very true that statement is. You watch two characters that have given so much of themselves and their love so easily, but have never been able to totally open themselves to accept love in return. This is a character-driven tale where those characters are brilliantly developed by Ms. Balogh. She depicts Meg as the mature woman she is – complex, a survivor of life’s hard knocks, determined not to just settle, but to work for what she wants. She spares no ink in her depiction and development of Duncan’s character either - strong, unwavering in his love for his son, willing to work at his hasty marriage in order to make it something special and, above all, compassionate and honorable. Ms. Balogh never fails to touch a chord in your heart with her moving, heartwarming stories. In AT LAST COMES LOVE she has succeeded, once again, to do just that.

I loved this book. I highly recommend it. ;)


Moonlight Warrior by Janet Chapman (Published by Pocket Star Books, April 28, 2009)
Kenzie Gregor is a Highland warrior from the 11th century who, until recently, was a panther. Why was he a panther? Because a witch cursed him, made him immortal and turned him into a panther. He arrives in current day Maine accompanied by an 1,800 year old Druidh who has lost his powers, to establish a sanctuary for animals. Not just any animals, but other souls cursed by witches and/or wizards in ancient times and who need assistance breaking their curses to return them to their previously mortal, human forms. Kenzie's mission now is a "soul warrior." His latest rescue is a 9th Century Irish nobleman, William Kilkenney, who has been turned into a dragon by a powerful witch.

Eve Anderson is recently divorced and has returned home to Maine to care for her ailing mother, Mabel, while trying to keep the both of them financially afloat. Physically, Eve resembles a pixie. On the inside, however, she is tough as nails, bitter towards men after being abandoned by her husband, and in denial about her mother's dementia-like illness. Eve's mother's farm is literally sold out from under her without her knowledge and the person who purchases it is Kenzie. After meeting Eve and her mother, Kenzie feels guilty about purchasing their home without their knowledge and offers Eve a job as his housekeeper to allow them to remain on the farm.

Kenzie is very attracted to Eve, but he knows that his job as a "soul warrior" could potentially bring tremendous danger to her and her mother. Eve thinks he is the most gorgeous male specimen she has ever seen. However, she is so wrapped up in her fear for her mother, in her bitterness towards her two-timing ex-husband and in trying to figure out how to support she and her mom, that she does everything in her power to avoid and/or ignore the gorgeous hunk of man living in the same house. A witch, a stubborn dragon and the fates conspire against them.

MOONLIGHT WARRIOR is a continuation of Janet Chapman's "Highlander" series with many favorite characters from that series making an appearance. Daar, the once powerful, but crotchedy Druidh, Grace and Greylen McKeage from CHARMING THE HIGHLANDER, Robbie McBain, who is a Guardian, from TEMPTING THE HIGHLANDER, and Winter and Matt Gregor from ONLY WITH A HIGHLANDER. The entire series is a wonderful adventure of displaced Scottish clan members from the 11th Century. Each story has twists and turns, sensual and emotional love, humor, well-developed characters and rich and complex plots. Kenzie's character, in his panther form Gesader, appeared in Winter and Matt's story, ONLY WITH A HIGHLANDER.

It was wonderful to see Kenzie have his own book. His character is strong, yet sensitive and gentle, caring and wise. He is a bit old fashioned in his ways (geez, I wonder why), but his attempts to be more modern were endearing. Eve is frightened, vulnerable and wounded. But, she has strength of character and a will of iron which keeps her moving forward. They compliment each other very well. In addition, anyone who has suffered with a family member's dementia will find it handled here in a positive, inspiring manner. William, the dragon, and Maddy, Eve's friend, were wonderful supporting characters that only added to his tale of romance and magic.

Janet Chapman has written a delightful fantasy with this series and her latest book MOONLIGHT WARRIOR continues the series brilliantly and beautifully. I highly recommend the entire series. I really enjoyed it! ;)

Friday, May 1, 2009

TILL THERE WAS YOU by Lynn Kurland

Till There Was You by Lynn Kurland (Published by The Penguin Group, April 28, 2009)
Zachary William Smith was finished with unreasonable, demanding clients. He was finished with high maintenance, titled women. He was also finished with the paranormal, time travel in particular. Zak just wanted a normal, boring, life. But that was not what fate and a few meddling, match-making ghosts has in store for him. For while he was visiting Artane, an ancient, beautifully intact castle located in Northern England, meeting with an old family friend, Zak steps innocently through a door to find himself inexplicably back in time to the year 1258. Zak doesn’t panic, however, because for the last several years he had been investigating many of the time gates located on his brother-in-law’s property in Scotland. Zak’s brother-in-law happens to be a Scottish Laird originally from the 14th Century. (A DANCE THROUGH TIME by Lynn Kurland.) He ducks into a garderobe (a medieval bathroom) to hide until he can figure out how to get out of this situation and discovers he is not alone. Hiding from an unwanted suitor in that same garderobe is the beautiful, feisty daughter of the keep, Lady Mary de Piaget. When the castle guards try to break down the door with their swords, Zak mistakenly thinks Lady Mary is a simple maid and tries to protect her. Even though he is quite skilled in modern karate and sword play, he is no match for the numbers of men and ends up in the castle dungeon.

Lady Mary is passionate about two things: training her father’s horses and avoiding marriage. In her determination to thwart a dogged, but unsavory suitor and she attempts to break Zak out of the dungeon to enlist his aid in escaping the keep and hiding until her suitor gives up his quest to marry her. That plan is upset by Lady Mary’s father, the infamous Robin of Artane (IF I HAD YOU by Lynn Kurland), England’s most notorious swordsman and one of its most powerful lords. Lord Robin wants his daughter to marry well and is determined that Geoffrey of Styrr, her latest suitor in a long line of suitors, is the least objectionable. Lady Mary has seen a side of Geoffrey that her father has not seen and fears for her very life. No amount of persuasion will convince Lord Robin that Lord Geoffrey will not make her a good husband. Hence, Lady Mary’s plan to flee.

Lord Robin is intrigued by the man who wears strange clothes, with unusual but deadly fighting skills, who speaks passable Norman French and who by his bearing is unquestionably is not a peasant. Zak knows of other time gates located not far from Artane and just wants to get back to his century. He finds himself, however, constantly seeking out the beautiful Lady Mary, despite the whispers he hears in his head warning him to leave no footprint in time. Lady Mary is desperate to avoid the betrothal to the frightening Geoffrey, and at first seeks out Zak for his help, but then discovers herself falling in love with him. You have two people from two different centuries who fall in love and discover that their love could affect countless of generations to come by upsetting the fabric of time and the future.

For those of you who haven’t read one of Lynn Kurland’s books, you are missing a wonderful experience. She writes such amazing romances about two families: one in medieval England - the de Piaget’s; and one in present day Scotland – the McLeod’s. Not all of this series are time travel stories. Some of them involve the story of a romance in their time period. The stories in the books overlap, as well as the families, and you quickly become familiar with both family trees. Each book can stand alone because Ms. Kurland does a wonderful job of explaining who is who within the fabric of each story.

But one thing is certain. You will laugh, your heart will melt, your toes will curl, you will shed a tear or two and you will come to love the two families through all her books. This is old fashioned, feel good romance written so beautifully that the pages fly and you hate to see it end. Heartwarming, sweet, poignant, magic, enchanting are just a few of the adjectives that come to mind. Ms. Kurland writes one of these books a year. It is a long year waiting to see who the story will be about, but each year it is well worth the wait.

I read this book in one day. Tomorrow, I will read it again but slowly this time while savoring each beautifully-turned phrase, each heart stopping second, each witty response and each tender moment. Give yourself a treat and start the series with Kendrick de Piaget’s story STARDUST OF YESTERDAY. You won’t be sorry.

Oh, in case I didn’t say it, I highly recommend this book. ;)