Saturday, 20 December 2014

Review: Killer Christmas, by Harper Lin

After breaking up with hunky movie star Nick Doyle, Grammy Award-winning singer Emma Wild returns to her hometown for Christmas to get away from it all. In Hartfield, a small town in Ontario, Canada, she gets caught up in a murder case after a fan's drink is poisoned at the Chocoholic Cafe, owned by Emma's sister Mirabelle.

Who is the killer and was the drink originally intended for Emma?
To add to the chaos, Sterling Matthews is the detective on the case. He'd shattered her heart nine years ago and inspired all her hit singles, but now they must work together to find the murderer before the murderer finds Emma.

This book is the first book of Harper Lin's 4-Book holiday mystery series. It was cute but in many places fairly unrealistic (especially considering the amount that Emma gets heavily involved in the police investigation into her own attempted murder that had gone awry). However, its still a cute Christmassy read that leads into the rest of the series with only partial resolution.. At least the main story line is resolved, and its just the entire romantic and future-life choices elements of the whole book that are left unresolved... I did like the character, and the story, and the secondary characters, but just not quite enough to spend actual money on the second book in the series. You might call me cheap, but I do try to reserve my pitiful pile of cash for the sequels that I JUST HAVE to download immediately, (and if they are not released yet I revert back to 14 year old girl status and just Can't Even).
And on the topic of I Just Can't Even... Seriously, how is the romantic choice not totally clear to Emma? Mr. Not quite committed who she walks away from because its not going anywhere, or the guy who broke up with her to set her free to be as successful as a grammy award-winning singer- which she now is... who also happens to be a sexy, sweet guy who fills the room with sizzling chemistry. Even if I was going to read the rest of the series, if she didn't pick Sterling.... pffftt... Here comes the can't even..

Ok, in short a groovy Christmas read, that doubles up as a surprisingly good murder mystery novella, despite the glaring abuses of standard police procedure.

Highlights: Sterling Matthews!
Low points: I'm sorry, but a hot chocolate mixed with coffee is called a MOCHA, not a hot chocolate latte!!!

Friday, 19 December 2014

Review: The Viscount's Christmas Temptation, by Erica Ridley

Certain individuals might consider Lady Amelia Pembroke a managing sort of female, but truly, most people would be lost without her help. Why, the latest on-dit is that rakish Viscount Sheffield is canceling the fête of the year because he hasn't time for silly soirees. He doesn't need time—he needs her!

When a flash of lightning destroys the venue for his family's annual Christmas ball, Lord Benedict Sheffield intends to enjoy a relaxing holiday for once. But after twelve days of beguiling Lady Amelia's guerrilla tactics, he's up to his cravat with tinsel . . . and tumbling head over heels in love.

Maybe this list should have been a regency Christmas countdown... at least, my reading list certainly seems to have a strong theme this year! This book is the first in the Dukes of War series, and I have to admit, it was so good that I have already bought and downloaded the next book in the series, and pre-ordered the one after that. Poor Doog, my long suffering Habibi, had to suffer through me interrupting his witch-house music at three in the morning just to tell him how much I loved this book (and its sequel)!

Lady Amelia Pembroke is the most organised person to ever have existed. She manages her brother's estate perfectly, handling issues before they can even arise, aided by her simultaneous keeping of five different journals. But, she has realised that her brother is stalling his own search for a wife, perhaps in fear of making her role redundant. Her solution is to find a husband of her own, ideally before her 30th birthday, due just after Christmas (30 sounds just too old to attract a suitor). Amelia plans to vet her list of potential suitors at the 75th Annual Sheffield Christmas Ball, but it seems the ball has been cancelled due to circumstances that not even Amelia could foresee- the venue has burnt down. Not to be stopped, Amelia convinces Lord Sheffield to let her find an alternative venue, and to arrange the ball, all in under 12 days. But, her intricate planning is disrupted by Sheffield himself, as he continually goes out of his way to try to show Amelia just what relaxing feels like.

I really liked the relationship that built up between Amelia and Sheffield- their budding relationship does seem to be genuinely built upon an appreciation for each other's characters (as well as, of course, a physical, visual appreciation). Amelia's organisation skills are impressive, bordering upon creepy, but the whole book is played off in a mildly humorous tone that lightens up the romance.

Highlights: The visit to Almanacs
Low points: the cover picture- does this book no justice at all!

Thursday, 18 December 2014

Review: A Grosvenor Square Christmas, by Anna Campbell, Shana Galen, Vanessa Kelly and Kate Noble

Four breathtakingly romantic tales of a Regency Christmas from four bestselling romance authors.

Down through the years, enchantment touches a tall grey house in Grosvenor Square. The legend of Lady Winterson’s Christmas ball promises true love and happiness to one lucky couple. Who will feel the magic this winter?

1803 - The Seduction of a Duchess by Shana Galen

Rowena Harcourt, the Duchess of Valère, never forgot the handsome footman who helped her escape the French Revolution. For fourteen years, Gabriel Lamarque has loved Rowena—now at Lady Winterson’s Christmas ball, has fate finally delivered a chance to win her hand?

1818 - One Kiss for Christmas by Vanessa Kelly

Nigel Dash is London’s most reliable gentleman, a reputation he never minded until he fell in love with beautiful Amelia Easton. Unfortunately, Amelia sees Nigel as a dependable friend, not a dashing suitor. At Lady Winterson’s famous Christmas ball, Nigel vows to change Amelia’s mind—by sweeping her off her feet.

1825 - His Christmas Cinderella by Anna Campbell

At the season’s most glittering ball, a girl who has never dared to dream of forever after discovers a Christmas miracle.

1830 - The Last First Kiss by Kate Noble

Susannah Westforth has always loved Sebastian Beckett – but he’s only ever seen her as a friend. When Sebastian takes his Grand Tour, Susannah transforms herself into a woman he’ll notice. Now Sebastian is back, just in time for Lady Winterson's Christmas ball – but the last thing he expects to see is his little Susie, all grown up...

You’re invited to join the whirling dance at Lady Winterson’s sparkling Christmas ball, where miracles happen and true love shines forever. How can you resist?

I didn't expect to like this anthology at all, perhaps because I read it maybe a month ago, way before I could entertain the thought of being in the Christmas Spirit. And yet, by the end of the four short stories, I was willing it to be Christmas Eve already!

Each story features different primary characters, but the tie-in between each novella is the backdrop of Lady Winterson's Christmas Ball. Having this connection really brought the whole book together for me, making it feel far more cohesive than other 'themed' anthologies I have read. Each story is romantic and cute, showered in just enough Christmas sparkle to seem magical rather than cheesy. The protagonists between each story vary in age, personality and personal history that each story stands on its own feet, and despite them being definitely less than full length novels, none of them feel over-rushed or over-simplified.

Highlights: Provides the Christmas Fuzzies!  Lady Winterson and her butler's ongoing presence in the background of each story.
Low points: Almost too easy- I sort of want more conflict, even though that might detract from the magical Christmas feeling (I want too much)

Tuesday, 16 December 2014

Review: A Counterfeit Christmas Summons, by Ava Stone

Lady Emma Whitton has decided its time to take her future in her own hands. She has been in love with Viscount Heathfield since she was in leading strings. Unfortunately, it's been almost that long since she's laid eyes on her brother's old friend and vice versa. Tired of waiting for him to remember her, Emma pens a holiday invitation (in her brother's hand) to Heathfield and waits as patiently as she is able for her one true love to arrive.

Heath isn't quite certain what to make of the very strange summons he received, but his curiosity is most definitely piqued. He heads north to Danby Castle, only to find that his very orderly life is about to be turned upside down.

Not got the time for a full length Christmas book? Then check out this very seasonal novella; Lady Emma Whitton has decided that she has to stop waiting for a certain someone to notice her (especially when she hasn't seen him for 10 years) , and to take matters into her own hands. She has a simple plan- write a letter, pretending to be her brother, get Viscount Heathfield to her Grandpapa's Christmas party, and he will fall in love with her immediately upon walking through the door? But, obviously things are never as simple as planned, when Heath brings a friend along, doesn't even recognise Emma, and
then swiftly mentions that he has been betrothed since childhood. Of course, in her panic, Emma goes on to state that she too has a fiancé, a Flemmish man named Blommen- all lies of course.
As events unfold, it is entertaining to watch Emma and Heathfield let themselves, Emma's relatives and the many other house guests get in the way of a potential relationship. The plot moves quickly, but feels relatively well balanced considering it is a novella.
Novellas often have the problem of the main characters falling in love instantly, and it is clear the author is aware of this problem- Emma has always been in love with Heathfield, but she has no idea if he returns those feelings at all.
A cute regency Christmas read, with enough romance and goings-on to get the reader into the Christmas spirit.

Highlights: Emma's relatives, especially her Grandpapa, Danby, who appears to know and see everything
Low points: Heathfield's instant feelings for Emma, when at first he didn't even recognise her, are a bit suspect, but with novellas you do have to roll with it.

Monday, 15 December 2014

Review: Lady Penelope's Christmas Charade, by Lilia Birney

From best-selling Regency romance novelist Lilia Birney comes a story about love at Christmas.

When Lady Penelope Annand's trusted servant goes missing just before Christmas, she is determined to get to the bottom of the matter. Even if that means hiring a thief-taker to track down her maid's whereabouts. But when the darkly smoldering Pierce Howe takes charge of the situation, Penelope finds herself growing more attracted to him by the second--even if she's infuriated by his high-handed manner. Penelope gave up on Christmas wishes years ago when her first husband broke her heart, but could Pierce give her a second chance at love?

Pierce Howe has made a name for himself as one of London's most reliable thief-takers, leaving behind his family's sordid past to create a life of his own. But when Viscountess Annand, known in society as The Ice Goddess, demands that he track down her wayward maid, he receives a Christmas gift he never expected--Penelope's trust. His carefully-constructed defenses begin crumbling as they embark on a Christmas charade to find Penelope's maid. And as the Ice Goddess shows that she does indeed have a melting point, the thief-taker must decide if he can risk it all and tell her the truth about his past.

I really seem to have a fixation on Regency novels at the moment, and this is the second book on this list not only to be regency, but also to have a protagonist called Penelope. This book is good, but I felt that the author had to try a little too hard to try to tie the book itself in with the title- yes, Penelope does go through a range of guises and roles to find her maid, but its still a bit of a leap from the book to the title. Other than this and some errors with timing issues and a few very minor editing issues (tying up a horse twice in three sentences), I really enjoyed Lady Penelope's Christmas Charade. The premise allows for a ridiculous storyline and implausible goings-on to be exciting and entertaining without feeling out of place. Penelope's friends made the story even richer, and I'd love to see some sort of sequel featuring some of them.
Highlights: Penelope and Pierce interviewing the Barclay employees (trying to avoid spoilers),  Clarice
Low points: A few weak points in the otherwise strong writing.

Sunday, 14 December 2014

Review: A Winter Wedding, by Amanda Forester

Miss Penelope Rose, exclusive matchmaker to London’s elite, successfully creates love for everyone but herself. Her toughest client yet, the sexy Duke of Marchford, has commissioned her to find him a bride. But he’s more interested in tracking down a spy, and she’s in no hurry to speed up the process…

When the fate of England falls in the Duke’s hands, he enlists Penelope for a new plan—they announce a sham engagement in order to flush out the traitor. But as the stakes get more deadly, and their feelings more real, will they discover that love is the most dangerous plot of them all?

This is the third book of a series that I would thoroughly recommend, but as it vaguely fitted with my Christmas theme I figured I would review this one first.

Penelope and the Duke of Marchford have been prominent throughout the series, so I would advise reading the books in order- starting with a wedding in Springtime, and then a Wedding in Summer. Penelope's career as a matchmaker, the infamous Madame X, is cultivated in these earlier books through the machinations of the Dowager Duchess, whom she acts as companion to. The Duke of Marchford has come to respect her and consider her as a friend- someone who he trusts with both his work as a spy investigating those who might work for Napoleon, and as someone who can help him to find a wife.... and he wants a wife... just like Penelope. As he comes to this realisation,
With two such significant story lines that quickly become interwoven, the story is definitely complicated, but not at all confusing thanks to Forester's telling of the story- the plot reveals itself pretty nicely as far as I am concerned.
As far as the Christmassy-ness of the book, whilst the book has a Christmas time setting, the holiday does not take the main focus- although Marchford's interesting interpretation of the 'On the first day of Christmas, my true love sent to me....' song is hilariously charming.  I would highly recommend this whole series! Definitely worth paying for (although the first book is free, so you can get a good taste of the whole thing, and be introduced to the majority of the characters).

Highlights: Sexy scenes, banter between Pen and Marchford,
Low points: Frustration that the characters stand in the way of their own feelings

Saturday, 13 December 2014

Review: How the In-Laws Wrecked Christmas, by Fiona Gibson

Christmas in the country. What could be better? All you need is one country house, one gorgeous boyfriend and a liberal dusting of snow. Right?

That’s what Anna thinks and she can’t wait for the festivities to start. But then she meets her gorgeous boyfriend’s awful parents. And their drunk friends. And she starts to hear all about a certain ex-wife. Suddenly this doesn’t look like a very merry Christmas after all…

I really enjoyed this short story, but wanted it to be longer, following on into Christmas day and beyond. It was difficult not to instantly like Anna, the protagonist, with her New Look heels and memories of her previous rowdy Christmases with her flatmates... which made it all the more awkward for the reader, as she is introduced to her boyfriend's snooty parents, who clearly do not approve of her. As her Christmas Eve develops, things go from bad to worse as she misjudges every situation, and increasingly feels like being herself is definitely the wrong thing to do in the hopes of being accepted... The book is so short that it is difficult to avoid spoilers, but I am glad that Anna's decisions in the end did not involve her changing herself to get their approval. I do think that the ending was rushed in order to keep it as a short story, and with the creation of Anna's flatmates and friends there is definitely potential to continue the story in another book.

Highlights: Daisy, the Rudolph Jumper, and the Snowman
Low points: rushed ending

12 Days of Christmas Books!

I don't know about you, but I love Christmas, and it starts to spill into every corner of my life in December, including the books I read! Starting today, I'm going to be posting a review each day until Christmas. Each book is an ebook available from the Amazon UK website; most were free reads, whilst a few do cost a little something, but are all pretty cheap! Some are novellas, some are really short stories, and some are full length novels, but ALL of them have a Christmas theme. *claps hands with joy* Yay, Christmas! Is there some kind of official Christmas dance/wiggle in my seat that I can do? That's how excited I am about Christmas! So, here are my books for the 12 days of Christmas!

On the first day of Christmas:
On the second day of Christmas: 
On the third day of Christmas:
On the fourth day of Christmas:
On the fifth day of Christmas:
  • Compromised for Christmas, by Jane Charles.
On the sixth day of Christmas:
On the seventh day of Christmas: 
On the eighth day of Christmas:
  • Cold Feet at Christmas, by Debbie Johnson.
  • Her Christmas Bonus, by Rain Danvers.
  • A Winter's Knight, by Elizabeth Cole.
  • Married for Christmas, by Noelle Adams.

Tuesday, 9 December 2014

Review: Entwined- The Erotic Adventures of Jane in the Jungle, By Colette Gale

13432786When not-as-proper-as-one-would-think Victorian woman Jane Clemons convinces her father to take her on an expedition in the jungle, her only goal is to find her lover Jonathan, who disappeared three years earlier. She and her father, along with Jonathan’s trusted friend Kellan Darkdale, set off on their journey.

But shortly after their party arrives on the coast of Madagascar, Jane finds herself enthralled not only by the freedom and beauty of the lush jungle, but a reclusive wild man who seems to be fascinated by her.

Whilst this book sounded promising, I was ultimately very disappointed- the book gets straight into the dark and nasty, with numerous sex scenes... Whilst I am definitely a fan of an excessive number of sex scenes in a self described erotic novella, the actual tone of many of these scenes is incredibly... rapey. And that just doesn't sit well with me.

First of all, there is Kellan, who forces himself onto Jane as soon as he gets her alone, and then there are a few creepy encounters with the jungle wildman (who is disappointingly not called Tarzan), including Jane getting caught in one of his vine traps, and being felt up whilst being unable to move, and another encounter where he sneaks into her bedroom while she sleeps.

Trying for a moment to ignore the icky feeling some of the sex scenes brought forward, the rest of the book was ok, I suppose. Jane makes some strange decisions, and the book definitely ends on a great twist... But lets be honest, the good was definitely overshadowed by the bad.

The writing was evocative, and it was definitely a new twist on the Tarzan and Jane idea, but it was definitely not my cup of tea! Luckily, the ebook was free. There are more novellas in the series, but I wasn't tempted to read any of them.