Monday, November 23, 2015

Daniel's True Desire by Grace Burrowes

Vicar Daniel Banks has appeared as a secondary character in several of Grace Burrowes novels. Readers adored Daniel and asked for a story solely devoted to him. I will admit I wasn't one of them. Lady Kirsten's story appealed more to me, not Daniel's. In this novel, Reverend  Banks has been adversely affected by scandal. His wife has left him and the child they raised is really Daniel's nephew.  Because of this disgrace, Daniel is now a vicar in need of a parish. I didn't view Daniel as a hero-- he's a nice man but, hero material? I had a hard time imagining brusque and impatient Lady Kirsten married to a parish vicar. Wait a minute...Daniel Banks is married. How could my heroine have a "happily ever after" with a married man?  What was Grace Burrowes thinking?

I wondered how one of my favorite authors could craft a romance between these problematic characters and that's what kept me reading Daniel's True Desire.

"You're the new Vicar?"
Amusement made this brusque, pretty woman an altogether different creature. She had mischief in her, and humor and secrets, also--where on earth did such thoughts come from?--kisses. Fun generous kisses. When she smiled, Lady Kirsten looked like the sort of female who'd pat a fellow's bum --in public.
The cold had made Daniel daft."Do I have horns or cloven feet to disqualify me from a religious calling, my lady?" She slapped the butter onto the bread, her movements confident.
"You have gorgeous brown eyes, a lovely nose--though it's a big red at the moment-- and a smile that suggests that you might get up to tricks, Mr. Banks. You could also use a trim of that brown hair. Ministers are not supposed to look dashing. I have two younger sisters who will suffer paroxysms  of religious conviction of you're to lead the flock.
Olivia had found Daniel's nose"unfortunate". Daniel found his entire marriage worthy of the same appellation.

Daniel's True Desire is the second book In the True Gentlemen series by Grace Burrowes. The novel seamlessly blends the opposites attract and the second chance romantic themes. Kirsten doesn't view Daniel as an impoverished 'has been" vicar whose wife left him.  She sees him as an intelligent, kind, patient man who truly enjoys teaching the local boys. Daniel looks past Kirsten's brusque demeanor. He sees a beautiful, intelligent woman whose laughter and kisses makes him happy. He wonders why she has never married. Daniel and Kirsten are attracted to each other but Daniel is married.

Both character's faith, love and commitment to each other and to their families are tested during the course of the well paced novel. The author carefully focuses on Daniel and Kirsten's friendship and the challenges of teaching the "rotten boys". Daniel is an honorable man who has taken vows with his wife and the church and will not break them. He will not cross the line and commit adultery. Daniel receives some news that changes his life. Will his friendship with Lady Kirsten change?

Loved the scenes where Daniel, Kirsten and Susannah meet with each boy's parents, especially when Kirsten and Susannah slyly suggest that the parents send weekly food baskets  to their sons. The banter between the sisters and the parents was cleverly written and very funny. And I loved it when the toads invaded the classroom! My favorite secondary plot involved Daniel and one of his students Matthias. Matthias had a difficult time with his classes and horseback lessons. He listened and understood his classroom lessons but could not pass a written exam and Matthias lacked confidence riding his pony. The author cleverly placed several clues throughout the novel regarding Matthias' difficulties. I enjoyed how this piece of the story played out.

The conclusion to the novel has a few surprises for Lady Kirsten and Vicar Banks. Daniel's late father provided him with a solution to his problem. Daniel needed to take time and sort through his father's belongings to understand how to move forward.  Together, Daniel and Kirsten face conflict and two well written villains in the last few chapters of the novel. The ending of this character driven novel was perfectly written for this couple.

And, yes Grace Burrowes convinced me that Daniel is a hero an honorable, kind hero to Lady Kirsten, his family and students. 

Reviewed by Susan Gorman
ARC provided by Sourcebooks

Thursday, November 19, 2015

A Gentleman for all Seasons | Review

A Gentleman For All Seasons

If you have not read any of these ladies works
before, this is an excellent way to get the feel of them.
Four wonderful short stories. Set in the small quiet town
of Hemshawe. Quiet until Georgie and her brother,
Bartram take over a house for a time. Bartram has his
own reasons for choosing this house. Which is the
starting point for all the romance that continues
to explode.

 Adam Sturridge and Belinda Leonard are the
first couple to crumble under the weight of Georgie and
her matchmaking skills. Madness in Spring is the story
from Kate Noble. When two people have known each
other for the most of their lives, it can be hard to
get past the childhood memories. Kate did a wonderful
job bringing these two characters together. I am sure
they must have fought her all the way.

The next story is Summer of Wine and Scandal by
Shana Galen. Caroline has a big secret in her past.
But Peregrine Lochley knows nothing of her secret.
He only knows his carriage is trapped in the mud and
he has no idea how to get it out. Lochley is lucky enough
that Caroline happens by. While Lochley is a wine
expert, Caro is the scandal. This is a story about 
being brave. Following your heart. Shana's writing
was a reminder to always get both sides of the story.
Theresa Romain adds a story called Those Autumn Nights.
This story explains why Bertram Gage rented the house
that he did. Everyone has had a moment when someone
made them feel unworthy. Not good enough. But as
humans, we always want to show them that we are
worthy. We all need to learn the less of following our
heart. But we also need to learn forgiveness.
Perhaps the hardest lesson of all. Thank goodness
Eliza Greenleaf comes along to help with quarter day.
Theresa was full of kindness and forgiveness in her story.

Then the final story of Gentleman for all Seasons is
The Season for Loving by Vanessa Kelly.
Georgie  Gage (matchmaker professional) and
Fergus Hadden (happily single) find themselves
thrown together at a house party in the home of
Bertram and Eliza Gage. Both of them simply want to
live their lives as they wish. With no help from those
that care about them. But in the end, Vanessa's story
is of romance. Cupids arrow finding his target.

It is happily ever after for all.
Even those living not quite in Scotland.

I enjoyed this anthology. Surprisingly, all four stories.
It's not often that happens. I suppose the fun and
interesting characters all joining together make
the stories easy to read and enjoy. 

Review by Lisa Hutson   

Thursday, November 12, 2015

The Color of the Season by Julianne MacLean

The Color of the Season
by Julianne MacLean
Audio version

This is book 8 of the Color of Heaven series.
I have been reading Julianne MacLean for so long.
Starting with her historical romance.
I have always liked her writing.
That includes this series.
The books in this series connect, one to the next
and then on in the stories. But, each one is easily
a stand alone story. They are inspirational, emotional
and thoughtful.
The Color of the Season is the story of Josh Wallace. A policeman.
He is a good guy. That keeps finding the wrong women.
As you can imagine, he finally finds the right one. But
he sure does have to go through a lot to get to her.

Is he brave enough to follow? Can he help a family
from his childhood to find their way? Is the whole
thing a dream?
It's a story that will set you to thinking on your
own life choices. Actually, every story in this
series does that.
I recommend just that, the whole series.
The audio versions are so well done. They often
have more than one narrator when the story calls
for it. Which is the case for this one.
Graham Halstead and Jennifer O'Donnell
do the narration for The Color of the Season.
 All the narration is very good. Easy to listen to.

Review by Lisa Hutson


Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Guest Post from Shana Galen

A Gentleman for All Seasons
Available Now!

The tiny village of Hemshawe is the sort of place where nothing ever happens...until a handsome ex-soldier and his matchmaking sister let the imposing manor house at the edge of town. The friendly Londoners shake up the staid people of Hemshawe, and villagers see each other in a new and oh-so-appealing light.

Suddenly long-sparring enemies become lovers, a town festival heralds a new start for a fallen woman and a dandy, and a man who has given up on love gets a second chance with the woman he never forgot. And the matchmaker herself?  She won't rest until she finds her own happily-ever-after...

A Gentleman and a Veteran
By Shana Galen

Today is Veterans Day, and I have the utmost respect for veterans. My dad and my grandfather served during times of conflict. In my new anthology, A Gentleman for All Seasons, not only did my co-authors Vanessa Kelly, Kate Noble, and Theresa Romain, and I each write a story with a hero we hope readers will love, three of our four heroes are veterans.

The unrest of the French Revolution and the rise of Napoleon led to war in Europe. The Peninsular War meant many of the men who lived during the Regency period had served abroad or were part of the regiments protecting England. Think of George Wickham, whose regiment is stationed briefly in Merryton, where Lizzie Bennett lives in Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice.

A Gentleman for All Seasons revolves around a brother and sister, Bertram and Georgie Gage, who let a house in a little country village for a year. Bertram served in the 13th Light Dragoons, and now that he’s returned from the war he wants to make sure his sister has peace and quiet to recover from an illness. Bertram reunites with a woman he loved before the war, and their story is told in Theresa Romain's “Those Autumn Nights.” My hero is Peregrine Lochley, who served with Bertram in the 13th. These friends have been through hell and back, and when Lochley needs a place to stay briefly after his father exiles him from London, he knows he can count on his friend Bertie. Of course the former soldier and London dandy falls for the last woman he expects in “The Summer of Wine and Scandal.”

Kate Noble’s “A Madness in Spring” also features a veteran. Adam Sturridge was in the Foot Guards. But all his military training has left him unprepared for the feelings he develops for his childhood friend Belinda Leonard. Vanessa Kelly’s hero Fergus Haddon may not be an ex-soldier but he is a sexy Highlander. He’s also just the man Georgie Gage needs. Now that she’s recovered from her illness, she’s tired of being coddled. Fergus doesn’t try to coddle Georgie, and the little matchmaker finally makes her own match in “The Season for Loving.”

This was such a fun anthology to write, and we loved crafting stories with four different heroes in four different seasons. Winter, summer, spring, or fall, we have a hero for them all!

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Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Grace Burrowes Spotlight Tour + Giveaway - 11/10

Message From the Author

The Joys of True Gentlemanliness … by Grace Burrowes

About twenty books ago, I lamented (whined) to one of my brothers that coming up with ways to challenge a romance hero into facing his worst fears and risking all to win the heroine’s heart was taxing my imagination. My brother, without a heartbeat’s pause said, “Make him choose between the competing demands of honor.”

THAT was great advice. Make the hero choose between the woman who needs him, and the military unit depending on him. Make him choose between avenging injustices from his past, or respecting the wishes of the pacifist woman he loves. Make him decide whether to be publicly vindicated or privately forgiving… Delightful stuff, for an author!

And yet, to travel along these brilliant character arcs, our hero must have one characteristic: He must have a well-developed sense of honor. To me, that means this fellow must be honest and kind. He can be poor, grouchy, lacking in charm, without prospects, unlucky in love—Daniel Banks is nodding his head—but ideally, he will still be a true gentleman at heart.

The true gentleman, alas for him, can be tormented from page one by the author and by the story, but from the start, the true gentleman will play by the rules of decency.

Rules are tough. The true gentleman will never misrepresent himself, which means Daniel Banks must inform Lady Kirsten that a) he’s married, and b) he won’t disrespect his vows. Too bad for Daniel, this honesty only raises him in the lady’s esteem, when he’s trying to emphasize his unsuitability.

The true gentleman will lend a hand—or an ear—to those in need. When Daniel Banks realizes that Lady Kirsten has been overlooked by her entire family, and is as lonely as an earl’s daughter can be, the least he can do is listen when she explains the misery in her past. Again, his respect for, and understanding of her increases, but what else could a gentleman have done?

The true gentleman is kind. He does not ignore the suffering of others, even if that means, he’s left with a bigger helping of suffering on his own plate. When Lady Kirsten needs a champion to fight her battles with an overbearing brother, Daniel steps up, though it might cost him his position. Once again, Daniel’s decency only gets him in hotter water, because now Kirsten’s brother is also viewing the impecunious, reserved, sometimes grouchy, vicar with renewed respect.

This business of being a true gentleman is darned hard, and darned heroic. What Daniel has to learn, though, is that true gentlemanliness begins at home. When he’s honest with himself, and shows himself the compassion we all deserve, all the inconvenient rules, tough choices, and honorable standards turn out to have been his second-best friends.

Lady Kirsten is, of course, his very best friend, being a true lady. But that’s another story…

Daniel Banks is the new vicar in Haddondale, temporarily a guest of Lady Kirsten’s family. They’ve dragooned him into tutoring some of the local boys, and Kirsten is managing the staff who’ll turn the dower house into a place of learning. What Daniel doesn’t know is how a married man, even one estranged from his unworthy spouse, can resist the allure of friendship with Lady Kirsten…

“I dread crossing the garden,” Lady Kirsten said. “Susannah has taken up reading old issues of La Belle Assemble√©, Della is memorizing DeBrett’s, and the countess talks only of fashion. Nobody does anything.”

“Most would envy them their idleness,” Daniel said, though he did not. The earl gave a good account of himself, tending to significant acreage and mercantile interests, but the women were bored.

One of the women was mortally bored, though never boring.

“I want to take the vicarage in hand,” Lady Kirsten said, marching from the pantry. “I doubt I’ll have time before we leave for Town the week after next. Lemon and beeswax won’t cure rising damp any way.”

Nothing cured rising damp save for replacing every scrap of affected wood. “You’re leaving soon, then?”

The prospect of distance from Lady Kirsten should have been a relief. She was unconventional, discontent, and unpredictable. Worse yet, she was patient with small boys, had a strong streak of domestic competence, and could not dissemble even to appease appearances.

Most troublesome of all, Daniel liked her. A lot.

“I smell fresh bread.” Lady Kirsten’s pace increased, then she halted to twist a sachet from behind a curtain. “Nicholas told George that in addition to Digby and the Blumenthal brats, you’re to take on both of Squire Webber’s sons. He aspires to send them to public school, but they lack a foundation.”

And years of dedicated tutors had been unable to remedy that lack? “I think you had better join me for lunch,” Daniel said resuming their progress toward a hot meal.

“I believe I shall. I adore a hearty beef stew with bread and butter on a cold, rainy day. Cook uses Mama’s recipe, and I’m partial to it.”

Peasant fare, for an earl’s daughter. Daniel liked her entirely too well.

A scullery maid set places for them at a wooden table heavy enough to double as a threshing floor, while Lady Kirsten served up bowls of steaming stew and Daniel sliced the bread. Daniel held the lady’s chair, and then, without even a nod in the direction of further small talk, took shameless advantage of his companion.

“I want to know every detail you can share about my scholars, Lady Kirsten. They’re shaping up to be a pack of ne’er-do-wells, scamps and scapegraces. One wonders if the parish isn’t attempting to run me off rather than welcome me.”

She snapped her serviette across her lap. “They’re out and out rotters, every one save for Digby, but George says he’s showing dubious potential. Don’t steal all the butter.”

Daniel passed her ladyship the plate of butter, small golden molds in the shape of roses.

“Your butter, and Lord-we-thank-Thee-for-this-food, amen. Now tell me about these scoundrels.”

Lady Kirsten sat back, her smile indulgent. “I’ve known them since they were babies, Mr. Banks. They’re full of energy and mischief, and there’s not a Latin scholar among them. They are truly, truly awful.”

She loved these rotten boys, and—greatest possible inconvenience—Daniel regarded this her most attractive quality of all.


An honorable life
Daniel Banks is a man of the cloth whose vocation is the last comfort he has left-and even his churchman's collar is beginning to feel like a noose. At the urging of family, Daniel attempts to start his life over as vicar in the sleepy Kentish town of Haddondale, family seat to the earls of Bellefonte.
Challenged by passion
Lady Kirsten Haddonfield has resigned herself to a life of spinsterhood. Then the handsome new village vicar, Reverend Daniel Banks, becomes a guest of the Haddonfield family while the vicarage is being renovated, and Kirsten finds herself rethinking her position. Lady Kirsten does not know that Daniel's past is about to cast a shadow on love's future.

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New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Grace Burrowes' bestsellers include The Heir, The Soldier, Lady Maggie's Secret Scandal, Lady Sophie's Christmas Wish and Lady Eve's Indiscretion. Her Regency romances have received extensive praise, including starred reviews from Publishers Weekly and Booklist. Grace is branching out into short stories and Scotland-set Victorian romance with Sourcebooks. She is a practicing family law attorney and lives in rural Maryland.

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Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Beautiful Storm by Barbara Freethy

Beautiful Storm
by Barbara Freethy
Audio version

Beautiful Storm is book one of the
Lightning Strikes trilogy.
Alicia Monroe is a photographer. She takes pictures
for the news to make a living. But she is drawn to
photographing lightning. It has gotten her into
trouble more than once. But it calls to her and she goes.

 One night, she spots something in the split
second that the lighting flashes. That very
quick image sets off a chain of events for Alicia.
She meets the star suspect in a missing person case.
The story unwinds and presents one mystery after
another. How can Alicia know who to trust? How
deep does she delve into this case? It gets more
dangerous by the day. More and more people that
seem to have too many secrets.
I have not read a lot of Barbara Freethy.
I think only one other.
So I wasn't sure what to expect. But it kept me
interested and curious. I recommend the audio version
of this well done mystery romance.
Eva Kaminsky did a very good job on
the narration.
This review by Lisa Hutson