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Monday, September 29, 2014

The Shadows of Stormclyffe Hall by Lauren Smith



The Shadows of Stormclyffe Hall
by Lauren Smith
Genre: Paranormal Romance/Romantic Suspense with Gothic Elements
Publisher: Entangled Publishing
Release Date: September 29, 2014



A thrilling gothic romance from Entangled’s Otherworld imprint…

To defeat a dark evil, they must face his family’s past…

Bastian Carlisle, the Earl of Weymouth, doesn't believe in ghosts. Even though tragedy and mysterious hauntings have driven his family away from his ancestral home, Stormclyffe Hall, he is determined to restore the castle to its former glory. His plans are disrupted when a stubborn American shows up on his doorstep hoping to pry into his family’s tragic history.

Jane Seyton, an American graduate student, is convinced there’s more to the tragedy of Stormclyffe Hall than history claims. Ever the scholar, she is determined to discover the truth, even if it means putting up with the arrogant, yet sexy, Bastian.

Although Bastian wants nothing to do with the pushy American, it soon becomes clear that something evil is in the house—and that something is targeting both Jane and Bastian. The two must join forces to purge the ghosts of Stormclyffe Hall once and for all—even as they try to fight a physical attraction between them that grows more and more impossible to deny.



The twenty-minute drive to the estate took her on a narrow road that paralleled the edge of the coast. Although it was October, the grass was still green on the hillsides, and storm clouds were only a vague outline on the horizon.  The landscape gave way to a slowly rising hill and a mass of distant trees, gnarled and knotted together tight as thorns. Just beyond was a glimpse of the castle. It was a massive edifice that stood stark against the sky and trees, towering over the fields, and she couldn't help but stare.

The countless photographs she’d collected over the years hadn't prepared her for the raw beauty and power of the structure. The worn battlements were still fully intact, facing the sea like warriors, ever defiant in the face of nature’s force on the coast. The steep cliffs merely half a mile from the castle loomed, dark and threatening.

No fence lined the cliff edges. No warning signs guided visitors away except one that read Private Property. Heavy Fines for Trespassing. She repressed an achy shiver as a cloud stole across the sun’s path, dimming all light.

The gray stones of Stormclyffe stood stalwart and proud, challenging her to drive closer. The road turned to gravel and thinned even more, leaving only enough space for her car.

Sheer desolation seemed to pour off the structure as she pulled into the castle’s front drive. If not for the five work vehicles that obviously belonged to various handymen, she would have thought the castle was devoid of all life.

Strands of hair stung her face as the wind whipped it about. There was an unsettling silence on the grounds, like something unnatural muffled the sound of the sea. No crashing waves, only the violence of the wind against the castle’s stones.

The house seemed to be wrapped in an invisible layer of thick wool, where sight and smell were dulled. The wind’s icy fingers crawled along her shoulder blades and dug into her hair, making her tense with apprehension. The castle walls were pitted with small chinks in the stones like fathomless obsidian eyes that stared at her, sized her up, and found her wanting.

The hairs rose on the back of her neck. The eerie sensation of eyes fixed on her back sent a cold wave of apprehension over her skin. She whipped around to look at the deserted landscape, suddenly fighting off a rush of panic at being alone out here.

Her heartbeat froze for a brief moment. A woman in a long white nightgown, hair loose down to her waist, stood hesitantly on the cliff’s edge, half turned toward the sea. She stared at Jane. Her skin was grayish, and her eyes were shadowed with black circles as though she hadn't slept in years.
Something wasn't right about the way she looked, or the fact that the nightgown looked far too old in style for any modern woman to be wearing. Not to mention a woman in a nightgown in broad daylight wasn't right either…


The Shadows of Stormclyfee Hall is a thrilling modern gothic novel.  It has all of the elements of a gothic novel that I enjoy reading: it is set in a dark mysterious castle, several unexplained murders and accidents have taken place and it's dark and very sensual.  Although, I am not a huge fan of the paranormal genre, the paranormal elements fit into the storyline and add to it's believability.

Lauren Smith creates a very mysterious and handsome hero in Bastian Carlise, the a Earl of Weymouth. Bastian is in the process of renovating the castle and attending to the family's estate matters when he receives a letter from Jane Seyton an American graduate student asking to visit Stormclyfee to read about the families history to complete her thesis dissertation.

Bastian felt like a damn fool. He'd just snogged  a woman in his drawing room without any control over himself. If he were a man who believed in ghosts, he might think that his ancestor Richard had taken over his body. Possessed him. But, that was impossible.



Author Lauren Smith's descriptive writing style flows well in this modern gothic novel. I  could visualize the rooms in the castle , the dovecote and the shadows in the castle.The plot is well-paced and I found it hard to break away from the story. The mutual attraction between Bastian and Jane is more than sexual, they are connected. I became invested in these characters and I wanted them to solve the 200 year curse at Stormclyfee Hall.  I wanted to know what happenned to Bastian's uncle Richard and his wife Isabelle and why the castle was cursed. As a romance reader, I wanted  Bastian and Jane to fall for each other. Lauren Smith delivered so much more in this mysterious, sexy, and sometimes scary thrilling novel.

If you love an excellent gothic novel, pick up Stormclyfee. The novel is slightly less than 200 pages in length and it's the perfect read for a dark rainy evening!
                                    

Reviewed by Susan Gorman.




Lauren Smith is an attorney by day, author by night, who pens adventurous and edgy romance stories by the light of her smart phone flashlight app. She’s a native Oklahoman who lives with her three pets: a feisty chinchilla, sophisticated cat and dapper little schnauzer. She’s won multiple awards in several romance subgenres including being an Amazon.com Breakthrough Novel Award Quarter-Finalist and a Semi-Finalist for the Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley Award. Lauren loves hearing from readers and can be contacted through her site at www.laurensmithbooks.com.











Thursday, September 25, 2014

Wicked Designs by Lauren Smith -- Audio Version



Lauren Smith's Wicked Designs is a fast-paced book filled with engaging characters, humor, intrigue and sexual sizzle. I was drawn into the story when Emily overhears the coachman accepting a bribe and realizes that she is being kidnapped. I knew from the beginning of the novel that Emily was my favorite type of heroine as she approached her situation very calmly and started to make a plan. Feisty Emily wasn't going to be kidnapped without a fight!

Godric St Laurent and his band of rogues have kidnapped Emily because Emily's uncle owes Godric a great deal of money. I loved listening to the banter between Emily and the rogues at breakfast. The narrator did an excellent job switching between the voice of Emily and the lords at the table. 
 
I felt there was perfect balance between romance and intrigue in the novel. I wasn't entirely sure which rogue would capture Emily's heart. Godric? Ashton? Lucien? The romance develops as the story progresses. There are several villains and plot twists in this fast- paced adventure.

*****************************************************************************************************************************

Audiobook--Unabridged
Wicked Designs: League of Rogues, Book 1 (League of Rogues Series, Book 1)
By Lauren Smith
Narrated By Heather Wilds
Length: 11 hrs and 1 min 
 
Enjoyed reading this book and the audio was fabulous.
Excellent narrator. Lots of nuances in the narration of the book. 
Great audio for a long trip or a vacation. I listened to it driving to and from work and traveling to a dog show.
Even though I had read the book, I loved the audio so much that I listened to the ending in bed...it was awesome!

Link to the book review of Wicked Designs.

Reviewed by Susan Gorman.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

The Perfect Match by Kristan Higgins--Audio Version

My daughter smiled and rolled her eyes at me the other day as we were getting into my car. I was getting ready to listen to my audio book during our hour long drive back to her college dorm.

"Mom", she said. "Why do you read romance? Do you really believe in all that happily ever after stuff?"




The Perfect Match by Kristan Higgins is the perfect example of why I enjoy reading romance books.   The Perfect Match provides a slice -of - life  look into the lives of the Holland family. Blue Heron vineyard is located in the beautiful Finger Lakes region of New York State. The vineyard has been owned and operated by the Hollands through several generations. I loved how four generations of the Holland family are portrayed in the novel; from Grandmother Goggie to teenage niece Abby. Lots of laugh- out- loud family conversations. Goggie made me laugh each time she and Honor visited the retirement home for movie night. Great honest and witty dialogue between Goggie and her peers. The Perfect Match also deals with several family issues such as caring for an elderly relative, teenage angst, pressures at work, dating and the desire to be married and have a child.

Our heroine, Honor Holland is the marketing manager for her family's vineyard.  Honor is 35 and her biological clock is ticking very loudly. She's been in a relationship with Brogan Lane for 17 years. Honor wants a baby and asks Brogan to marry him. Instead of accepting Honor's proposal, he dumps her. Goggie arranges a blind date for Honor with a friend's nephew, Tom Barlow, with disastrous results. Tom, a college professor with an interesting past and an almost step-son, needs a green card to stay in the United States.


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The Perfect Match--Series: Blue Heron, Book 2 Unabridged Audio Book

Written by: Kristan Higgins
Narrated by: Amy Rubinate
Length: 12 hrs and 12 minutes

Great narrator, excellent job with expressing the emotion in Honor's voice. Loved how the narrator switched effortlessly to Tom's British accent and the teenage defiance in Charlie's tone. The audio is over 12 hours long which made it great listen during my work week commute. I never noticed the traffic!




  

Who will be Honor's Perfect Match?
Will photographer and sometime boyfriend Brogan realise that he loves Honor?
Does Tom have feelings for Honor? If they marry will it be for love or for a green card?
Or will Honor live at the Vineyard with her little dog Spike?




This is the first book by Kristan Higgins that I have had the pleasure to listen to and read. I synched my Iphone to my Ipad and alternated listening and reading to the story. I read the story through to its conclusion. Great contemporary read which will leave you smiling and will remind you to cherish your family. Am planning to purchase Jack's story In Your Dreams when it is available at the end of the month. 

Reviewed by Susan Gorman.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Dead Man's Curve - Review

Dead Man's Curve - by Paula Graves - Review


It is always a good day for me when I get to start reading a new series by Paula Graves. Paula Graves writes romantic suspense that you just have to sit down and read in one sitting. Dead Man's Curve is the start of a new miniseries called The Gates, set in the mysterious Smoky Mountains.  The action leaps off the page in typical Paula Graves cinematic style with non-stop intrigue, heart pounding danger and bad guys that make you get up to check and see if your doors are locked. 

Paula Graves pulls you into her world, where trust is a scarce commodity, and loyalty is earned the hard way. I always really enjoy reading Paula's intrigues, because her characters are real people with flaws, hopes and secrets. Also, she doesn't make her characters rush into the physical side of the relationship, and for me that makes the story so much more believable.

Have you ever looked out into a crowd of faces, and think that you recognize someone? Someone that meant something special to you? 
Dead Man's Curve starts with the FBI agent Ava Trent responding to a kidnapping case, and turns into something bigger. Ava Trent scans the crowd and thinks she sees a ghost from her past. Sinclair Solano meant something to her, eight years ago but he could not be there in that crowd, because he is dead. He died a wanted man, under explosive circumstances, but then things aren't always as they seem. Ava Trent is confident, funny and determined to find out the truth. 

"He had a full lower lip and deep brown eyes, back in her foolish, romantic youth, she'd thought soulful."


There are some characters in Dead Man's Curve from previous series, but they don't overwhelm the story. For fans of the Cooper Justice and Cooper Security series it is a bonus, to get to check in with some familiar faces. My favorite hero, Gabe Cooper from The Man from Gossamer Ridge, finds himself in a bit of a mess in this book.  

I was talking to the book the whole time,"Duck! Get out of there! Kiss her!", which typically means for me it was a winner. The dialogue is crisp and is funny, though the hero and heroine were hardly in a laughing situation. Luckily for me and fans of Paula Graves the next two books in the series, Crybaby Falls and Boneyard Ridge will be available in October and November of this year. 







 



Reviewed by Gayle Cochrane

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Four Friends - Audio Version Review



Audio Version


This was my first Robyn Carr experience. She is an author
that I see around often. But just never got around to reading.
I saw this one on sale at audible.com so I gave it a try.

As you might guess, it is a story of four friends.
They share a street in a typical neighborhood. I have
wondered, if I got to know the other women on my
street, would I find such a diverse group? They are each
very different women. Their lives, their marriages, children,
family, history, thought processes all so very very
different. And yet, they are able to be supportive and
encouraging of each other. There are secrets and mysteries.
There are plenty of those ah-ha moments.

I do highly recommend this one. If you have never tried
an audio book before, this is a good one. It is
twelve and a half hours long. So you definitely get your
moneys worth. The narration is terrific.

The only problem you will have is when to pause the story.
I had a hard time just stopping. I am guessing if I had
read the paperback, I would have felt the same.  
I can promise laughs and tears, surprise, shocks.
And at the end, you will probably go out your front
door and look up and down your street searching
for a truck. But I wont tell you whose truck. haha!



I will definitely give Robyn Carr another listen to or read.
This one was fabulous.
Review by Lisa Hutson



Friday, September 5, 2014

From The Reviewer's Desk --The Baron Next Door

From The Reviewer's Desk of Susan Gorman

I enjoy reading Erin Knightley's books and novellas. Today, I'd like to share my thoughts on her newest novel.

I believe that Erin Knightly has set the stage for a breathtaking story of self discovery and healing in her newest novel The Baron Next Door.




A hung over Hugh Danbury wakes up to the sound of Charity playing her pianoforte. Charity is a pianist and practices daily to prepare for her audition in the Summer Serenade. The fun begins when the cranky Hugh now known as Baron Cadgwith visits with Charity and her Grandmother and asks Charity to "keep the infernal racket to a minimum." Charity is insulted and plots revenge while the Baron is clueless!! I enjoyed reading how this couple who started out at odds with each other grew to respect each others differences.

The Baron Next Door is character driven novel. Each character in the story is well developed, unique and plays an important role in the storyline. I loved Charity's Grandmother. Lady Effington understands Charity’s desire for a love match. She provides the right touch of Grandmotherly concern and advice and supports her granddaughter. Lady Effington ‘s observations throughout the novel were spot on. I enjoyed how the three friends Charity, Sophie and May join forces to get a place in the music recital. Their friendship is a key piece in the novel.

The novel contains many examples of lyrical imagery. I loved the scenes when Charity would sneak to the piano room at midnight and play her haunting musical compositions. She expressed her feelings through her music and these scenes were excellent. Although there are no bedroom scenes, the writing is very sensuous. There is passion and the reader understands the characters feelings.



 The last few chapters of the Baron Next Door contained several surprising and unexpected events that kept me reading past my bedtime. I am looking forward to the next book in the series. 


 And, please check out my complete review on Fresh Fiction

Thursday, September 4, 2014

From The Reviewer's Desk - How To School Your Scoundrel

From The Reviewer's Desk of Susan Gorman

I enjoyed this book very much. I was in the mood for a bit of fun and espionage! 


How To School Your Scoundrel by Juliana Gray

The relationship between Somerton and Princess Luisa drew me into the story and kept me reading. I was intrigued by their relationship and surprised that this unlikely couple was at the heart of the novel. Somerton is an edgy man with trust issues. He is paired with the loyal, practical Princess Luisa who has known only kindness in her life. After several close calls with death, it became clear that Olympia made a wise choice placing Luisa in the home of the master spy after the political coup de'etat.

I enjoyed all of the scenes with the Duke of Olympia. What a cagey and humorous character! His plans and schemes drove the storyline forward. There is just the right amount of subterfuge , adventure and romance in the novel and Olympia is at the heart of it all! Just when I thought I knew what Olympia was planning, our hero and heroine were presented by an unexpected obstacle that they needed to overcome. Nothing went smoothly for them.

Juliana Gray has written a fast-paced adventure about a Princess in hiding which takes place in Germany, England and Italy. I loved the descriptive tone, the attention to details, the espionage , the romance and ALL of the characters. I was invested in the characters and their story. I read the last four chapters in one sitting to finish the book. I will mention that Ms. Gray added a special character in the novel, Luisa's corgi, Quincy. I own several corgis and the author was spot on with her description of the inquisitive nature of the breed ,their loyalty and humor. This is the first novel by Juliana Gray that I have read . How To School Your Scoundrel is the final book in the series. It can be read as a stand alone novel I plan to purchase the other two books in the series. 


Rose-Haven's Two Sweet "Beanie" photo by Susan M. Gorman


Please read my full lenth review on Fresh Fiction

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

From The Reviewers Desk - In Bed With A Rogue

The Reviewer's Desk of Susan Gorman

In the past few weeks, I have read several excellent novels and posted my reviews on the Lady Celeste blog and on Fresh Fiction
                                               
   

September is a great time to grab a book and read. The weather is cooler, summer vacation is over and everyone is back to school and college.

This week I would like to feature three books from authors Samantha Grace, Juliana Gray and Erin Knightley that I was excited to read and review. Both Juliana Gray and Samantha Grace are new -to -me authors. Erin Knightley writes from the heart and her characters are fabulous. I really enjoyed reading their books and I hope you do as well!

Today's featured book review is:  In Bed With A Rogue by author Samantha Grace


Ms. Grace creates a fabulous hero in Sebastian Thorne. Sebastian tugged at my heart from the very beginning of this story. The novel begins with our hero drinking at a bar in a seedy part of town. Sebastian is drinking quite a bit because he was jilted by his fiancé . He is tired of the gossip and being featured daily in the Society pages of the paper. He is attacked outside the bar and the thieves steal his money and his boots! His boots--how embarrassing! Before Sebastian passes out from too much drinking and a beating, he thinks he sees an angel.

Lady Helena Prestwick is searching for her sisters. She believes one sister may be working in the Whitechapel section of London. Helena is the angel who finds the injured Sebastian and returns him to his home. A few evenings later, Sebastian and Helena meet at a society event and they are attracted to each other. Sebastian loves his family and is very loyal and he desires to see his sister who was left at the alter settled. He makes a bargain with Helena which benefits both of them .

Ms. Grace 's subtle commentary on the social classes reminds the reader that there is an underlying meaning to the novel. The differences between the aristocracy and the working class are brought to light as Helena's own story is revealed and as she and Sebastian search for her sisters. Sebastian is falling for Helena. But, Helena enjoys her status as a widow and the freedom it provides her. Although, she is falling in love with the captivating Sebastian, Helena says she's not ready to commit to marriage. The search for Helena's sisters takes the couple from the seedy sections of London to ballrooms and soirées and to the countryside. Will Sebastian figure out where the sisters are living and who is threatening Helena? Will Helena admit her feelings for Sebastian?


My complete review is on FreshFiction.com