Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Border Bride by Amanda Scott

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
Obtained from: Netgalley/Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours
Read: April 22, 2013

Set in treacherous sixteenth-century Scotland, the first volume of Amanda Scott’s Border Trilogy tells the unforgettable story of a woman sworn to defy the knight she is forced to wed—only to discover a love she’ll do anything to claim. As Mary, Queen of Scots, languishes in the Tower of London as a prisoner of her cousin, Queen Elizabeth, war tears Scotland apart. To save her beloved homeland, a proud Highland beauty named Mary Kate MacPherson must wage her own battle when she’s forced into wedlock with a knight, Sir Adam Douglas, from the barbaric borderland of Tornary. Even as she succumbs to her seductive husband’s sensual demands, Mary Kate vows never to give him her heart. She will belong to no man. But Adam burns with something deeper than desire. Sworn to carry out a long-awaited revenge, he won’t rest until he has vanquished his enemies. Accused of treason, the last thing he expects is to lose his heart to the woman he’s determined to tame but never to love: his own wife.

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Initially, I was on the fence about Amanda Scott's Border Bride. I just wasn't sure it would be my kind of book, a suspicion that seemed accurate when the first few chapters proved a bit of a struggle. I took a little while, but as I progressed the story slowly began to grow on me and in the end, well it is still a light historical romance, but one I can say enjoyed spending time with.

Mary Kate chaffs in a society ruled by men, but even in 16th century Scotland there is little she can do about her situation. Through her heroine, Scott explores social norms that allowed men to not only make decisions for women, but abuse them as well. Though I appreciate what Scott was getting at here, I didn't find the idea all that compelling. It isn't Scott's fault, I've just seen it done so many times before that I needed some new twist to draw me into the story. 

That twist came in the form of Adam Douglas. Adam is very much a product of his time, taking on the role expected of him as lord and master. He sees no fault in punishing his wife for her transgressions, however, he does wrestle with his conscious over it. I'm not condoning abuse, but I liked the idea of a man rather than a woman questioning the foundations of the world in which he was raised. 

Together, the two share a very interesting dynamic, one that was made all the more interesting when set against upper class intrigues and border politics. Highly recommended to any and all readers of highland romance. 

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Had he not confessed that he had wanted her merely to satisfy a whim? Did he not look upon taming her as a challenge? No matter how charming he could be, no matter how disarming her roguish smile, he was still an impudent border knave who thought he had only to crook her to heel...
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Check out all the stops on the historical fiction VIRTUAL BOOK TOUR of Amanda Scott's Highland Fling, Dangerous illusions and Border Bride


Wednesday, April 3
Review at The Picky Girl Blog (Highland Fling)
Review at Books Like Breathing (Dangerous Illusions)
Thursday, April 4
Interview at A Bookish Libraria
Friday, April 5
Guest Post & Giveaway at In the Hammock Blog
Monday, April 8
Guest Post & Giveaway at Broken Teepee
Tuesday, April 9
Review at Just One More Chapter (Border Bride)
Review at Overflowing Bookshelves (Highland Fling)
Interview at Tribute Books
Wednesday, April 10
Feature & Giveaway at A Writer’s Life: Working with the Muse
Thursday, April 11
Review at Overflowing Bookshelves (Border Bride)
Review at Flashlight Commentary (Dangerous Illusions)
Friday, April 12
Feature & Giveaway at So Many Precious Books, So Little Time
Monday, April 15
Review at Romantic Historical Lovers (Dangerous Illusions)
Guest Post & Giveaway at History Undressed
Tuesday, April 16
Review at Ramblings from a Chaotic Mind (Highland Fling)
Wednesday, April 17
Review at Oh, for the Hook of a Book! (Border Bride)
Review at The Musings of a Book Junkie (Dangerous Illusions)
Thursday, April 18
Review at Books Like Breathing (Highland Fling)
Review at Overflowing Bookshelves (Dangerous Illusions)
Friday, April 19
Review at A Chick Who Reads (Dangerous Illusions)
Review at Peeking Between the Pages (Border Bride)
Monday, April 22
Review at Peeking Between the Pages (Highland Fling)
Guest Post & Giveaway at Ramblings from a Chaotic Mind
Tuesday, April 23
Review at Flashlight Commentary (Border Bride)
Wednesday, April 24
Review & Giveaway at The Bookworm (Highland Fling)
Thursday, April 25
Review at Romantic Historical Lovers (Highland Fling)
Review at From the TBR Pile (Border Bride)
Friday, April 26
Guest Post at Flashlight Commentary
Interview at From the TBR Pile
Monday, April 29
Review at Books Like Breathing (Border Bride)
Review at Oh, for the Hook of a Book! (Dangerous Illusions)
Tuesday, April 30
Review at Romantic Historical Lovers (Border Bride)
Wednesday, May 1
Review at WTF Are you Reading (Highland Fling)
Interview at Bibliophilic Book Blog
Thursday, May 2
Review at WTF Are you Reading (Border Bride)
Interview & Giveaway at Ramblings of a Chaotic Mind
Friday, May 3
Review at Starting Fresh (Highland Fling)
Review at WTF Are you Reading (Dangerous Illusions)


Monday, April 22, 2013

International Giveaway: The Fifth Knight by E.M. Powell

Flashlight Commentary is pleased to offer readers the chance to win a free copy of E.M. Powell's The Fifth Knight!

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When mercenary Sir Benedict Palmer agrees to help King Henry II’s knights seize the traitor Archbishop Thomas Becket, what begins as a clandestine arrest ends in cold-blooded murder. And when Fitzurse, the knights’ ringleader, kidnaps Theodosia, a beautiful young nun who witnessed the crime, Palmer can sit silently by no longer. He and Theodosia rely only on each other as they race to uncover the motive behind Becket’s murder—and the truth that could destroy a kingdom.












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a Rafflecopter giveaway

The Fifth Knight by E.M. Powell

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
Read: April 21, 2013

When mercenary Sir Benedict Palmer agrees to help King Henry II’s knights seize the traitor Archbishop Thomas Becket, what begins as a clandestine arrest ends in cold-blooded murder. And when Fitzurse, the knights’ ringleader, kidnaps Theodosia, a beautiful young nun who witnessed the crime, Palmer can sit silently by no longer. He and Theodosia rely only on each other as they race to uncover the motive behind Becket’s murder—and the truth that could destroy a kingdom.

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Canterbury Cathedral, stained glass- ancient panel
showing the Murder of St Thomas Becket
E.M. Powell's The Fifth Knight is the kind of book that takes hold and refuses to let you go. You take it to bed thinking you'll read a chapter or so before you call it a night and 150 pages later  your spouse rolls over and threatens your life if you don't turn off the light... okay not my life exactly but he threatened my book which is close enough.

It really isn't all that surprising when you think about it, the nature of the book that is, as The Fifth Knight was originally published as a kindle serial. Not that you can necessarily tell where one episode ends and the next begins, but throughout the book, Powell exhibits a particular aptitude for building dramatic tension and giving her readers just enough resolution to leave them wanting more.

In terms of characters, I'm hard pressed to choose between Palmer and Theodosia. I greatly enjoyed watching Palmer's motivations shift as he struggled with his principles, but I also appreciated what Powell did with his companion. I'm used to seeing nuns written in somber, reverent tones, but Theodosia is passionately devoted and genuinely earnest. Seeing that kind of spunk in someone destined to live a life of service within the Church was refreshing to say the least.

Ideally I might have liked more historic detail, Powell plays fast and loose with the particulars where I would have appreciated more clarity, but all in all The Fifth Knight is a cleverly written medieval mystery that engages readers from the first page to the last. 

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"Here I am. No traitor, but archbishop and priest of God."
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CHECK OUT ALL THE STOPS ON E.M. POWELL'S HISTORICAL FICTION VIRTUAL BOOK TOUR


Tuesday, April 16
Review at Confessions of an Avid Reader
Wednesday, April 17
Review at Sir Read-a-Lot
Thursday, April 18
Review at Turning the Pages
Friday, April 19
Interview & Giveaway at Sir Read-a-Lot
Monday, April 22
Review & Giveaway at Flashlight Commentary
Tuesday, April 23
Review at Oh, For the Hook of a Book!
Wednesday, April 24
Interview & Giveaway at Oh, For the Hook of a Book!
Thursday, April 25
Review at The Lit Bitch
Interview at Bibliophilic Book Blog
Friday, April 26
Guest Post at Historical Fiction Connection
Monday, April 29
Review at A Book Geek
Tuesday, April 30
Guest Post at Kinx’s Book Nook
Wednesday, May 1
Review & Giveaway at Book Addict Katie
Thursday, May 2
Review & Giveaway at Just One More Chapter
Friday, May 3
Review at The Musings of a Book Junkie
Monday, May 6
Review at Layered Pages
Review at Overflowing Bookshelves
Tuesday, May 7
Review at Raging Bibliomania
Wednesday, May 8
Review at West Metro Mommy
Thursday, May 9
Review at So Many Books, So Little Time
Friday, May 10
Review & Giveaway at Broken Teepee



Sunday, April 21, 2013

The Boleyn King by Laura Andersen

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
Obtained from: Netgalley
Read: April 13, 2013

What if Anne did not miscarry her son in January 1536, but instead gave birth to a healthy royal boy? Henry IX, known as William, is a 17-year-old king struggling at the restraints of the regency and anxious to prove himself. With the French threatening battle and the Catholics plotting at home, Will trusts only three people: his older sister, Elizabeth; his best friend and loyal counselor, Dominic; and Minuette, a young orphan raised as a royal ward by Anne Boleyn. Against an undercurrent of secret documents, conflicting intelligence operations, and private murder, William fights a foreign war and domestic rebellion with equal resolve. But when he and Dominic both fall in love with Minuette, romantic obsession menaces a new generation of Tudors. Battlefields and council chambers, trials and executions, the blindness of first love and the betrayal of true friendship...How far will William go to get what he wants? Who will pay the price for a king's revenge? And what twists of fate will set Elizabeth on the path to her destiny as England's queen?

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Henry VIII and Anne Hunting
I admit, I had to gather my courage before diving into Laura Andersen's The Boleyn King. Devoted as I am to history, I find the concept of alternative fiction fascinating. In the right hands it presents a tantalizing opportunity for brilliance, but in the wrong hands, well, in the wrong hands the term epic disaster seems most appropriate. So where in this spectrum does Andersen fall huh? In all honesty somewhere between three and four stars, but I'm willing to give her the benefit of the doubt for creativity and the general respect she has for her fact based material. 

The book is told from several points of view, my favorite being Princess Elizabeth. Even I admit it is a bias opinion as unlike William, Dominic and Minuette, I already had a clear idea of who she was as a character if not how her life would play out in this alternative 1536. Possessing a certain fondness for the historic Elizabeth, I was relieved to find Andersen's characterization was still the fiercely independent woman of legend, even if the circumstances of Andersen's story left her chaffing under the rule of her mother, Anne Boleyn.

The author's nod to how different these women were and how their characters would have clashed is only the first of several historical tidbits Andersen slipped into the piece which is why I am shocked so few, and by few I mean none of the other reviews I read touched on the obvious research Anderson put into the piece. I mean no disrespect, but there is really so much more here than a fanciful jaunt into what might have been.


Andersen makes only one direct change to the history, allowing the son Anne historically delivered stillborn, to come into the world a healthy and thriving baby boy. It is a significant change, one that alters the entire course of Tudor history, but even in this alternate world, certain parallels exist. Thomas Seymour still has an unattractive affinity for young women, Jane Grey is still being thrust at the unmarried Tudor monarch by her power hungry relations, Mary still holds Anne accountable for her mother's downfall, George Boleyn remains angrily saddled with the sour Jane Parker and our young Elizabeth still bares a tender affection for the already wed Robert Dudley. Fanciful though her work is, Anderson went to great lengths to maintain some level of authenticity.  I did not expect this attention to detail in an alternative piece, but was pleasantly surprised to find it within these pages.

The Boleyn King is impressive, but I can't say it is entirely without flaw. For one thing, there are few if any sensory details to describe the settings. Perhaps Andersen felt her readers would already be familiar enough with these locals to picture them, but I must admit, my imaginings were often bare and nondescript. I also felt, particularly when our male leads interacted with the girls, that the story read more like a young adult piece than the adult historic fiction I tend to favor. 

All and in a surprising piece that more than exceeded my expectations. Maybe not as hard hitting a story as I wanted, but entertaining just the same. 

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"I am English before I am Catholic - and I am an opportunist before either."
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A Touch of Scarlet by Eve Marie Mont

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
Obtained from: Netgalley
Read: April 3, 2013

Emma Townsend is back at prestigious Lockwood Prep, but her world has altered immeasurably since her tumultuous sophomore year. The best change of all: her boyfriend, Gray. And though Gray is leaving for Coast Guard training, Emma feels newly optimistic, even if the pain of her mother’s long-ago death still casts a shadow. Yet Emma isn’t the only one who’s changed. Her friend and roommate, Michelle, is strangely remote, and old alliances are shifting in disconcerting ways. Soon Emma’s long-distance relationship with Gray is straining under the pressure, and Emma wonders if she’s cracking too. How else to explain the vivid dreams of Hester Prynne she’s been having since she started reading The Scarlet Letter? Or the way she’s found herself waking in the woods? As her life begins to echo events in the novel, Emma will be forced to choose between virtue and love. But can she forge a new future without breaking her heart?

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Hester and Peal atop the scaffold
It is safe to say I wasn't particularly fond of Eve Marie Mont's A Breath of Eyre, but I honestly think my experience with book one helped me to better enjoy the time I spent with book two, A Touch of Scarlet.

For one thing, I came to this book knowing it wouldn't be a traditional retelling. That Mont would utilize elements from the classic fiction, rather than the entire plot, as platform to explore concepts and ideas that pose difficulties to modern teens. In this case, Mont dissects Nathaniel Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter to examine both sexuality and social acceptance. The result? Well, it isn't Easy A, but it isn't all that bad either. In point of fact the creativity Mont exhibits here, as well as the subject matter as applied to her target audience, were probably my favorite parts of the book.

The Scarlet Letter
Another thing I learned was not to reread the original. Let's flashback to A Breath of Eyre. Knowing exactly how much of the original was left out, the extent to which Mont butchered one of my favorite classics for her own gains, really upset me. I means really upset me. Not wanting to repeat the experience, I decided to forgo revisiting Puritan Boston and relied solely on my memories of Hester's story. Ultimately I was still disappointed, but here again I was much less annoyed as I wasn't constantly holding to an unrealistic expectation.

Without a doubt, keeping an open mind and relaxing my attitude towards Mont's premise helped me better appreciate her work but taking the story for what it is rather than what I'd hoped it to be didn't work entirely in her favor. New aggravation took form in Lockwood's study abroad program. I get that the final installment will be set in France and I'm trying not to shudder thinking what revisions are being done to Leroux's masterpiece, but I am not particularly pleased that book two of the Unbound series placed such emphasis on what is essentially the groundwork for book three. This needed to be a story in and of itself but it came off as more of a stepping stone between points A and B.

My conclusion? I think these books have a specific target audience and present that audience with a lot of interesting material. As for me though, I found this series while looking for creative retellings and in that sense I am still only partially satisfied.

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The Scarlet letter was going to kill me. Over the past week, I'd been trying to get through its 375 pages of densely packed text, and all I had gained for my efforts was a newfound hatred for nineteenth- century prose. Hawthorne never used seven words where twenty-seven were available. And so far, Hester and Dimmesdale's forbidden romance wasn't setting off any fireworks.
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Friday, April 19, 2013

Guest Post: Except from Seduction by M.J. Rose

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Excerpt from Seduction - From Chapter 1

My love for my daughter is at the heart of this story. My delightful daughter. My sunshine. I know every father says this, but she truly was special. Even in this world she was visibly living a higher life. I had seen her soul. It had touched me. In this world of misery, suffering and horrible injustice, Didine was my own wonder, my own happiness. And in Jersey, she became my own madness.
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About the Author: M.J. Rose is the international best selling author of eleven novels and two non-fiction books on marketing. Her fiction and non-fiction has appeared in many magazines and reviews including Oprah Magazine. She has been featured in the New York Times, Newsweek, Time, USA Today and on the Today Show, and NPR radio.  Rose graduated from Syracuse University, spent the '80s in advertising, has a commercial in the Museum of Modern Art in NYC and since 2005 has run the first marketing company for authors - Authorbuzz.com.  The television series PAST LIFE, was based on Rose's novels in the Renincarnationist series. She is one of the founding board members of International Thriller Writers and runs the blog- Buzz, Balls & Hype.  She is also the co-founder of Peroozal.com and BookTrib.com. Rose lives in CT with her husband the musician and composer, Doug Scofield, and their very spoiled and often photographed dog, Winka. For more information on M.J. Rose and her novels, please visit her website. You can also find her on Facebook and Twitter.

About the Book: From the author of The Book of Lost Fragrances comes a haunting novel about a grieving woman who discovers the lost journal of novelist Victor Hugo, awakening a mystery that spans centuries. In 1843, novelist Victor Hugo’s beloved nineteen-year-old daughter drowned. Ten years later, Hugo began participating in hundreds of séances to reestablish contact with her. In the process, he claimed to have communed with the likes of Plato, Galileo, Shakespeare, Dante, Jesus—and even the Devil himself. Hugo’s transcriptions of these conversations have all been published. Or so it was believed. Recovering from her own losses, mythologist Jac L’Etoile arrives on the Isle of Jersey—where Hugo conducted the séances—hoping to uncover a secret about the island’s Celtic roots. But the man who’s invited her there, a troubled soul named Theo Gaspard, has hopes she’ll help him discover something quite different—Hugo’s lost conversations with someone called the Shadow of the Sepulcher. What follows is an intricately plotted and atmospheric tale of suspense with a spellbinding ghost story at its heart, by one of America’s most gifted and imaginative novelists.

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Check out all the stops on M.J. Rose's historical fiction VIRTUAL BOOK TOUR


Monday, March 25
Review at Luxury Reading
Tuesday, March 26
Review at Peppermint, Ph.D.
Wednesday, March 27
Review at Bibliophilic Book Blog
Thursday, March 28
Interview at A Bookish Libraria
Friday, March 29
Review & Guest Post at vvb32Reads
Guest Post at Oh, for the Hook of a Book!
Monday, April 1
Review at A Bookish Affair
Review & Guest Post at The Lit Bitch
Tuesday, April 2
Guest Post at A Bookish Affair
Wednesday, April 3
Review at Griperang’s Bookmarks
Thursday, April 4
Review at The Musings of a Book Junkie
Friday, April 5
Guest Post at The Musings of a Book Junkie
Monday, April 8
Review at Girls Just Reading
Tuesday, April 9
Review & Guest Post at Kinx’s Book Nook
Wednesday, April 10
Review at Booklover Book Reviews
Thursday, April 11
Review at Psychotic Book Reviews
Guest Post at Literary Marie
Friday, April 12
Review at West Metro Mommy
Monday, April 15
Review at Layered Pages
Tuesday, April 16
Review at CelticLady’s Reviews
Wednesday, April 17
Review at Reflections of a Book Addict
Thursday, April 18
Review at Flashlight Commentary
Guest Post at Reflections of a Book Addict
Friday, April 19
Guest Post at Flashlight Commentary
Monday, April 22
Review at Impressions in Ink
Interview at Oh, for the Hook of a Book!
Tuesday, April 23
Review at Review From Here
Review at Ageless Pages Reviews
Wednesday, April 24
Guest Post at The Maiden’s Court
Thursday, April 25
Review at So Many Books, So Little Time
Friday, April 26
Review at Girl Lost in a Book
Monday, April 29
Review at A Chick Who Reads
Review at As I Turn the Pages
Tuesday, April 30
Interview at A Chick Who Reads
Wednesday, May 1
Review at Peeking Between the Pages
Thursday, May 2
Review at Unabridged Chick
Guest Post at Peeking Between the Pages
Friday, May 3
Review at Confessions of an Avid Reader
Tuesday, May 7
Review at Sharon’s Garden of Book Reviews
Wednesday, May 8
Review at Buried Under Books
Review at Diary of an Eccentric
Thursday, May 9
Review at Amused by Books
Review at Oh, for the Hook of a Book!
Interview at Buried Under Books
Friday, May 10
Review at Savvy Verse & Wit
Tuesday, May 14
Review at Words and Peace
Review at Kimba the Caffeinated Reviewer
Guest Post at Historical Tapestry
Wednesday, May 15
Review at Stiletto Storytime
Thursday, May 16
Review at From Left to Write
Guest Post at Stiletto Storytime
Friday, May 17
Review at A Novel Review
Monday, May 20
Review at Broken Teepee
Tuesday, May 21
Review at Confessions of a Book Hoarder
Guest Post at Broken Teepee
Wednesday, May 22
Review at Bags, Books and Bon Jovi
Guest Post at Confessions of a Book Hoarder
Thursday, May 23
Review at Man of La Book
Guest Post at Bags, Books and Bon Jovi
Friday, May 24
Review at The Calico Critic
Monday, May 27
Review at Paperback Princess
Tuesday, May 28
Review at To Read or Not to Read
Guest Post at Blood Mother Blog
Wednesday, May 29
Review at Cheryl’s Book Nook
Guest Post at To Read or Not to Read
Thursday, May 30
Review at Book Nerds
Guest Post at Cheryl’s Book Nook
Monday, June 3
Review at A Book Geek
Tuesday, June 4
Review at Tribute Books Mama
Guest Post at My Shelf Confessions
Wednesday, June 5
Review at Bippity Boppity Book
Thursday, June 6
Guest Post at Book Nerds
Friday, June 7
Review at Book Drunkard
Monday, June 10
Review at Jenny Loves to Read
Tuesday, June 11
Review & Interview at Pure Textuality
Wednesday, June 12
Review at From the TBR Pile
Thursday, June 13
Review & Guest Post at Books by the Willow Tree
Friday, June 14
Review at Bibliophilia, Please
Monday, June 17
Review at Mari Reads
Tuesday, June 18
Guest Post at Mari Reads
Wednesday, June 19
Review at Daisy’s Book Journal
Thursday, June 20
Guest Post at Daisy’s Book Journal
Friday, June 21
Review at Judith Starkston Blog
Review at Just One More Chapter
Monday, June 24
Review at The True Book Addict
Tuesday, June 25
Guest Post at The True Book Addict
Wednesday, June 26
Interview at Judith Starkston Blog
Friday, June 28
Review & Giveaway at A Writer’s Life: Working with the Muse