Book Reviews

Review: MAD FOR PLAID by Karen Hawkins

Disclaimer: I received an arc copy of this novel in exchange for an honest review.

After reading heavy research tomes and biographies for a whole week, I was ready to dive into something lighthearted, humourous, and romantic…and where better to look than a Karen Hawkins’ novel. Her latest novel, Mad for Plaid, is everything I could have hoped for and more…

27409186Nikolai Romanovin, a royal prince of Oxenburg, has travelled to the deepest wilds of Scotland to rescue his grandmother the Grand Duchess, who was abducted while visiting an old friend in the Highlands. Wanting to avoid an international incident, Nik plans to quietly slip into enemy territory disguised as a groom at Castle Cromartie. But his plans go awry when he falls under the cool gray gaze of the laird’s daughter.

Pragmatic and clever, Ailsa Mackenzie has been left in charge of the family estate and her unruly grandmother in her father’s absence. Something about the new groom catches her eyes, and makes her think he’s not who he pretends to be—and even more shockingly, stirs her senses. Is it his obviously educated manners? His arrogant, non-servant-like presence? It’s certainly not his towering, powerful form, or slumberous, inviting green eyes!

After confronting the imposter and learning the truth, Ailsa agrees to help Nik—for she, too, understands difficult relatives and would do anything for family. Soon their secret partnership leads to growing respect, searing kisses, and then something far more perilous. And when their quest turns dangerous, Ailsa and Nik must discover this unknown enemy while facing the dangerous demands of their own unruly hearts.

He was an imposing figure with broad shoulders, thick black hair, and green eyes so dark they appeared almost black. In public, he took the character of a man of town, charming and easily amused, flirting with women one after the other, and never speaking anything political or of consequence. Indeed, most of Europe believed him a wastrel of a sort…

Mad for Plaid is by far my favourite book in the Oxenburg Princes series! It wasn’t until I started reading the novel that I realized I was waiting for Nik’s story forever. As the Crown Prince, he is very different from his brothers. Previously we learned that he is a bit of a playboy, who can be charming, but in Mad for Plaid we learn more about his true character. He has the responsibility of inheriting the kingdom, which doesn’t allow him the same choices as his brothers, but at the same time he is shown as someone who can be witty, caring, stoic, powerful, and much more. In short, he can be whatever the situation requires and this adaptability has allowed Nik to become a skilled diplomat. But, of course, this also means that no one truly knows him. As the plot unfold, we see him begin to the true facets of his character beyond the title of “Crown Prince.”

Ailsa’s hair was a darker, less noticeable ash blond, her eyes grey, her form stalwart, while her nose could only be described as “prominent.” 

Ailsa is similar to Nik in many ways. For one, her father has left the responsibilities of the estate entirely to her. And despite being young, Ailsa has shown herself capable of meeting her responsibilities. However, she is also quick tempered, creative, and has often been underestimated due to her age which has caused her to be stubborn. In part, it is Ailsa’s need to prove herself (to both her staff and herself) that she is able to run the estate, protect her people, and save Tata Natasha (who has been abducted) without the interference of her father and Nik that makes up the base of the plot.

However, eventually Nik and Ailsa do end up working together to find Tata Natasha, but that is where the mystery of her abduction takes on a plot twist…which was surprisingly well-developed with red herrings to throw the reader off track.

“My grandmother has gone missing,” [Nik] announced shortly. “Lady Ailsa believes Her Grace to have been abducted.”

Apraskin’s mouth dropped open. 

“Someone took Her Grace? On purpose?” Rurik said in obvious disbelief. 

And as in the other novels of the Oxenburg Princes series, Tata Natasha is necessary in bringing the two characters together…as her matchmaking antics have become a signature in this series.

However, my one quibble with this novel was the sudden “forbidden romance” angle. I found it an unnecessary subplot. For one, with Nik’s reputation as a wastrel in Europe, I hardly believe there would have been many eyebrows lifted should he have simply married Ailsa. And secondly, the story had enough intrigue and romance without the need for this secondary addition.

That said, I would still give this novel four our of five stars. It’s tone – both comedic and romantic – embodied summer!

RATING - 4

Mad for Plaid releases tomorrow (August 30th) in bookstores and online.

Happy reading,

Rika

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Review: THE WIDOW’S AUCTION by Sabrina Jeffries

Disclaimer: I received a digital arc of this novella in exchange for an honest review. 

28803825Sabrina Jeffries’ The Widow’s Auction was re-released today, but you may have previously read the story in the Fantasy anthology.

Though Isobel Lamberton, the widowed Lady Kingsley, is confounded by her dealings with the obstinate Justin Antony, Lord Warbrooke, his commanding presence sparks something deep within her. But such romantic thoughts are for naught. For Justin’s political aspirations always come first. And Isobel’s own secret past could damage both of them permanently.

So when Isobel’s friend talks her into participating in a scandalous auction of masked widows at a gentleman’s club, she reluctantly agrees…and soon begins to relish being an object of desire. But none desire her more than Justin, who recognizes the outspoken Isobel in disguise and sets out to teach her a lesson worth far more than money…

I remember reading this novella in the anthology but, even now, years later it has not lost it’s charm. Short and sweet, the novella features two complex, compatible characters – Isobel and Justin – whose interactions are riddled with humour and romance. Though the novella is told in first person, there is a greater focus on Isobel’s character and we see Justin mainly through her eyes. I would have liked to know more about his thoughts, but for the short length of the story, his character was developed quite well. As is the case with most well-written novella’s, the story does leave you wanting more. However, if you’re looking for s quick escape this summer, then The Widow’s Auction is a neat little trip back to the Regency era.

RATING - 3

 


Review: THE STUDY OF SEDUCTION by Sabrina Jeffries

Disclaimer: I received an ARC of this novel in exchange for an honest review. 

Sabrina Jeffries‘ second installment of the Sinful Suitors series, The Study of Seduction, has hit the shelves!

25814323When Edwin Barlow, the Earl of Blakeborough, agrees to help his best friend’s impetuous ward, Lady Clarissa Lindsey, in her time of need, he knows he’s in for trouble. He’s been hunting for someone to wed, and she’ll just get in the way. Although captivated by the whip-smart, free-spirited beauty, he fears she’d be all wrong as a wife … if she would even take such a gruff cynic for her husband. Too bad he wants nothing more than to have her for his own.

Clarissa has no intention of marrying anyone—not Edwin, whom she’s sure would be an overbearing husband, and certainly not the powerful French diplomat stalking her. But when matters escalate with the diplomat, she chooses Edwin’s gallant offer of a marriage between friends in hopes that it will deter her stalker. She expects nothing more than an amiable union, but their increasingly tempestuous kisses prove more than she bargained for. When her stalker’s vow to expose the lovers’ deepest secrets threatens to destroy their blossoming attraction, will their tenuous bond withstand public ruin, or will Edwin lose all that’s important to him to protect his bride?

The Study of Seduction was a pleasant surprise for me. Ms. Jeffries explores some darker issues in this novel that haven’t been discussed in her more recent works – all of which were more lighthearted. This novel has the signature Jeffries warmth and humour, but becomes a more dense, emotional read as details of Clarissa’s past are revealed.

At first, I found it difficult to relate to Clarissa – in part, because she was not behaving according to my own bias of how I thought a trauma victim would behave. However, my judgement was subconscious at first. It sound insensitive to say – and it absolutely is – which is why I needed to check myself (and throw my own biases out the window) before I began to reread the novel with a broader perspective. I have often heard that everyone reacts a different way to trauma, but I have been fortunate enough never to experience this first hand. My inexperience made me judge Clarissa, much to my shame, and forget what I have been taught about reading a work of literature from multiple perspective – and never, NEVER, judge a character by how you think they should act. (Of course, there are exceptions to these rules, but none that apply here.)

On my second read through, although I still found aspects of Clarissa’s character contradictory or even historically beyond her time, I was more able to recognize some of her behaviors as coping mechanisms for her tragedy (at least, I believed they were intentionally written as such). I found myself able to see her as a real individuals – one who does not behave according to a preset mold, but makes us question what we know about human psychology.

Very deep stuff, I know.

But on a less deep, and more superficially attractive eye-candy level, we have Edwin. (I’m not kidding…have you seen the cover model?)

In all seriousness, I found Edwin to be a decent, like-able character on both my first and second reads, but he paled in comparison to Clarissa on my second read and I found him less memorable. The amateur psychologist in me was more intrigued with analyzing aspects of Clarissa’s character on my second foray into the novel and I didn’t pay much attention to Edwin. I found him to be a pleasant (and for Clarissa, necessary) addition to the novel but less complex in terms of development.

But, who knows, this could change on my third read?

Nonetheless, based on my two reads so far, I would give this novel a solid 4 out of 5 rating.

RATING - 4

Happy reading,

Rika Ashton

(aka The Self-Credited Psychologist)


Review: WHAT HAPPENS UNDER THE MISTLETOE

Disclaimer: I received a complimentary copy of this anthology in exchange for an honest review.

What Happens Under the Mistletoe is a delightful, Christmas-themed anthology perfect for snuggling up in a warm blanket on a chilly day…or any other day for that matter!

Stunned by the heat of an unexpected kiss on a cold winter’s eve, two strangers from vastly different worlds turn hotheaded principles into burning passion in Sabrina Jeffries’s delightful yuletide story, The Heiress and the Hothead.

In the snowy Scottish countryside, Karen Hawkins’s rakish duke has an unforgettable holiday encounter in Twelve Kisses when the alluring lady he surprises under the mistletoe is not who he expected, but a long-lost love with a score to settle.

In By Any Other Name, Edinburgh is aglitter for Christmastime as Candace Camp sends a curious gentleman in hot pursuit of an intriguing lady in disguise—one who refuses to reveal her true identity, though she fears he has already stolen her heart with his kiss.

In Sweet Ruin, will the festive spirit of the season sweep Meredith Duran’s feisty heroine beneath the mistletoe—and back into the arms of the dashing rogue whose carelessness soiled her reputation and sent her into exile in London?

The book gave me a chance to return to the worlds of Karen Hawkins and Sabrina Jeffries, as well as introducing me to the newer writing styles of Meredith Duran and Candace Camp.

In “The Heiress and the Hothead” by Sabrina Jeffries, we get a closer look at Amanda Keane – sister of Jeremy Keane (from the Art of Sinning). Amanda is the owner of a cotton mill in America and her hero, Stephen, writes about the abuse of cotton mill workers in England. They are electric from the moment they meet and share a kiss under the mistletoe. The amount of history research that Ms. Jeffries packed into the novella is astounding, and yet it does not take away from the pleasure of the romantic elements in the story. The history background enhances the experience for the reader, and adds a sense of realism to the “The Heiress and the Hothead.”

Karen Hawkins’ “Twelve Kisses” is an equally delightful story. The characters Marcus and Kenna are reunited after 10 years and one stolen kiss under the mistletoe proves that these two have some unfinished business. Despite the short length of the novella, Ms. Hawkins is able to inject her signature humour and wit into a Scottish romance.The romance of the two characters is helped along with the aid of a fairy godmother – none other that the Grand Duchess from the Oxenburg series – who will make a fortune of her cupid-esque skills one day.

Candace Camp’s “By Any Other Name” is an entertaining read. It features a case of mistaken identity, but will with a lighter twist. The heroine, Rylla Campbell, sneaks away dressed in her brother’s clothes, who she is searching for. She meets with misfortune when leaving a gaming club during her search and is rescued by the hero, Gregory. It’s love at first sight for the hero – a refreshing change – but it’s not so easy for him to win Rylla’s love in return (an interesting prospect for the reader because it proves to be delightfully entertaining).

In “Sweet Ruin” by Meredith Duran, a story about a bluestocking daughter of a peer and a commoner, we have a tale of epic proportions. The distinct social backgrounds of the characters provides an engaging backdrop for the tale of a a stolen letter and a diplomatic mission. The story is engaging and full of witty banter. However, it’s short length let me wanting more.

I highly recommend this book to those looking for a light holiday read that will leave you with a feel-good mood!

RATING - 4


Review: THE PRINCE AND I by Karen Hawkins

Disclaimer: I received an ARC of this novel from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. 

A Robin Hood retelling with a twist! Karen Hawkins‘ latest installment in the Oxenburg series, The Prince and I, features a colourful cast of characters…

Gregori Romanovin, Oxenburg’s warrior prince, is escorting his grandmother to a house party deep in the Highlands when he and his entourage are robbed at sword point by a group of ruffians led by a man the locals have dubbed “The Scottish Robin Hood.” The battle-savvy prince instantly realizes there’s something different about this thief, and it’s not just the Scottish accent—it’s the fact that “he” is really a “she.”

Lady Murian, a young widow out for revenge against the powerful earl who killed her husband and stole his birthright, is now living in the woods with her family’s banished retainers. To stay alive, she and her band of men rob rich nobles coming to visit the evil earl. But when she ambushes the Prince of Oxenburg’s golden coach, she gets far more than she expected. For when the prince uncovers her true identity, she’s afraid that he might be the real thief…of her heart.

I’ve been waiting a long time for Prince Gregori – the scarred warrior prince of Oxenburg’s story, and The Prince and I  delivers an entertaining backstory. Prince Gregori was the highlight of the novel for me. He is an impressive character, who is loyal to both his family and later to Muriel as well. Although described as physically strong and heroic, he’s a realistic character who admits his faults and can actually apologize for when he becomes a bit high-handed:

Max looked past her to the village where his men worked, and suddenly he saw it through her eyes. Who was he to ride into her village like some arrogant knight on a white horse and, without consulting her or anyone else, “fix” everything in sight?

“I should have asked. I’m sorry.”

Gregori was a refreshing character. Funny and witty…he’s not easily fooled by anyone, especially not the villain of the novel. Though a renowned war hero and a prince, his retains his humour and does not view everything with cynicism.

Muriel was also an interesting character. Her actions as “Robin Hood” would certainly have been more entertaining for me if Gregori hadn’t stolen the show. There is nothing wrong with Muriel as a heroine. She’s a sympathetic character, who takes fate into her own hands and takes measure to rescue herself and her loved ones from their circumstances. She portrays her loyalty in a myriad of ways and she is creative and ingenious.

But…

Gregori!

He literally stole the show from his own love interest – at least for me. From the second Gregori and his grandmother appeared on the scene in their carriage to the moments later when they were getting held up by highwaymen, his character literally leapt off the page.

The supporting cast and their subplots, especially Tata Natasha’s were captivating in there own way, but truly no one captivated me in quite the same way as Prince Gregori of Oxenburg!

For him alone, I name this a great summer read!

RATING - 4


Review: THE ART OF SINNING by Sabrina Jeffries

Disclaimer: I received an ARC of this novel from the publisher. (Also, beware of spoilers…maybe…)

What happens when you pair an American artist who looks like Adonis with an opinionated, but kindhearted lady of the ton? Well, nothing less than a masterpiece called The Art of Sinning to be sure!

American artist Jeremy Keane refuses to return home and take over his father’s business. He’d much rather sample bevvies of beauties abroad, in search of a model for the provocative masterpiece he’s driven to paint. When he meets Lady Yvette Barlow at a London wedding, he realizes she’s perfect for his work—and determines to capture the young heiress’s defiant spirit and breathtaking sensuality on canvas.

No stranger to scandal, Yvette agrees to be Keane’s subject—in exchange for his help gaining entry to the city’s brothels he knows intimately, so she can track a missing woman and solve a family mystery. But when their practical partnership leads to lessons in the art of sinning, can they find a bold and lasting love?

The first book in Sabrina Jeffries new series, Sinful Suitors, is certainly a work of art…not to mention that cover! (Is anybody else falling deeper in love with Jeremy just staring at the cover?)

But, truthfully, Jeremy is more than just a pretty face. He’s witty, charming, wicked, and not to mention, downright hilarious at times. Though he is rumoured to be a rakehell, Jeremy proves himself to be a decent and (contrary to his own opinion of himself) selfless.

Yvette is an equally “arresting” character. Wary of rogues and men in general, Yvette is skeptical of Jeremy’s intentions.

Mr. Keane’s warm gaze poured over her like honey. “I don’t recall ever seeing you at my exhibit. Trust me, I would have remembered.”

A shiver danced down her spine before she could steel herself against reacting. Very nicely done. She’d have to be on her toes with this one. “We attended it in the morning. I daresay you were still lying foxed in some gaming hell or nunnery.”

“Good God, here we go,” Edwin [Yvette’s  brother] muttered under his breath,  recognizing the vulgar slang for bawdy house.

“I am rarely foxed and never in a nunnery,” Mr. Keane retorted, “for fear that it might tempt the ‘nuns’ to bite me.”

“I should love to know what you consider ‘rarely,'” Yvette said. “That you even know that ‘bite’ means ‘cheat’ in street cant shows how you must spend your days.”

“And how you must spend yours,” he said with a gleam in his eye. “After all, you know the terms, too.”

Though Yvette and Jeremy have a mutual attraction to one another, they each hold back for different reasons. Yvette is wary of rogues in general because of both the scandal that haunts her family and her own past. Likewise, Jeremy is also haunted my the memories of his first marriage and home. And, though, Jeremy’s past is shaded with death, I still felt that Yvette’s past was more heartbreaking – especially after the full truth is revealed towards the end of the novel. It went completely against my expectations of a family reunion – and it showed how much of a scoundrel Yvette’s disowned brother, Samuel, truly was. Samuel is, in some ways, the true villain of this novel even though his is not physically present on the story.

But it goes to show that a well-written villain still has the ability to manipulate others, even from a distance.

It isn’t until they individually overcome their pasts that Jeremy and Yvette can admit what they feel for the other. Both characters grow stronger in the course of the narrative and the reader is witness to both a tale of friendship and love.

Speaking of friendship, the growing bromance between Jeremy and Edwin was equally as touching (and funny) as the interactions between Jeremy and Yvette. Brought together by their individual wariness (aka fear) of their sisters, Edwin and Jeremy decide to open their own club…but that is a tale for another time. (No, really, Ms. Jeffries should write a novel based solely on the interaction between these two because they are so entertaining….it’s like watching a sketch comedy!)

The Art of Sinning is an imaginary masterpiece that combines humour and romance, and is home to a cast of characters with honourable intentions – some of which are hilariously misguided. A summer must-read!

RATING - 5 And look out for Edwin’s novel, The Study of Seduction, soon!

Study of Seduction

Rika Ashton

(aka Jeremy’s Muse – though he knows it not!)


Throwback Thursday: THE SILVER DEVIL by Teresa Denys

This week I went with a controversial historical romance novel, often characterized as a bodice ripper – because, yes, it’s very old – by Teresa Denys. Ms. Denys wrote only two historical romance novels, The Silver Devil (which is this week’s pick) and The Flesh and the Devil, and both novels are  difficult to find. I found a copy of The Silver Devil a few years ago at a used book store, but if you try to buy a print copy these days it’ll cost you about $50 for a used paperback in Canada- a high asking price indeed.

Amid the gilded opulence and dark intrigue of Renaissance Italy grew a love that knew no bounds….

No woman’s heart is safe from the Silver Devil. From the moment he sees the beautiful Felicia, he must have her. Overnight he changes Felicia’s nightmare world of tavern drudgery into an erotic adventure as his royal mistress. He is the Duke of Cabria who holds his subjects in constant fear. He is troubled. He is ruthless. And Felicia is hopelessly in love with him – though at times he seems like the devil incarnate.…

I’ve always considered The Silver Devil more than just a romance novel. Set in Renaissance Italy, its very different from the norm. The entire novel is written in first person in the heroine, Felicia’s perspective, and while she does focus on her dangerous and romantic relationship with the Duke – Domenico – she also describes the corruption of the Italian court in detail and her own place in this new world. Felicia is an uneducated eighteen year old, and she’s plucked from her life with her half-brother and sister-in-law and thrown into a new one as the Duke’s (really equivalent to King’s) mistress. The Duke apparently finds her beautiful enough for the new role, though Felicia claims that other women at court are far more beautiful than her. For me, The Silver Devil was as much a novel of court intrigue and politics as it was about romance.

On the other hand, the first person perspective was very limiting at times. The reader stays with Felicia through the events that unfold, but we don’t get much insight into Domenico at all. We’re forced to make assumptions – which may be correct – but we don’t get the thought process in Domenico’s mind and he comes across as evil. Felicia describes him as a spoiled child, which is as accurate a description as you can get for a man who would execute another for simply being taller than him. Likewise, he is very jealous. Insanely so. He has a man tortured because he thinks Felicia’s falling in love with him.

I found this novel a very dark read…and yet, oddly amusing. Felicia does go through a character arc and comes out stronger in the end, but along the way her naivete is painfully clear. On the flip side, Domenico is very cynical and distrusting throughout.

But, I really found this an interesting read. It was beautifully, almost poetically written, and despite the controversial subject matter – rape, torture, etc – it was still a believable (and imaginative) representation of life in the Renaissance.

What “controversial” bodice rippers are you in love with?

Rika Ashton

(aka Renaissance Time Traveler)

P.S: Here’s another, very detailed, review of the novel in case you’re interested and not afraid of spoilers.


Spotlight on the Grim Reaper! (With a TRIPLE Giveaway!)

UPDATED TO ADD: Contest is now closed.

Just in time for Halloween, we thought it was appropriate to introduce you to the Grim Reaper, Charley Davidson…or rather, the Charley Davidson series by Darynda Jones!

I stupidly waited a ridiculously long time to read these books, but now that I have I can’t get enough of the hilarious characters, fascinating world building, and spine-tingling plot. The fun in the Charley Davidson series is that you never quite know what to expect, and the plot of each novel flows seamlessly into the plot the next. Just when you have one question answered, you’ve got three hundred more burning thoughts to deal with. In other words, these novels are page turners!!!

And if you haven’t  had the chance to start this series, then lucky you!

Why?

Because Rika’s Musings is holding its first ever giveaway, and we are putting our books where our mouths are by giving not one…not two…but THREE paperback novels from the Charley Davidson series to one lucky winner on Halloween night! You now have a chance to win and read the first three novels: First Grave on the Right, Second Grave to the Left, and Third Grave Dead Ahead.

BOOK ONE BLURB: 

Charley sees dead people. That’s right, she sees dead people. And it’s her job to convince them to “go into the light.” But when these very dead people have died under less than ideal circumstances (i.e. murder), sometimes they want Charley to bring the bad guys to justice. Complicating matters are the intensely hot dreams she’s been having about an entity who has been following her all her life…and it turns out he might not be dead after all. In fact, he might be something else entirely.

BOOK TWO BLURB:

When Charley is rudely awakened in the middle of the night by her best friend who tells her to get dressed quickly and tosses clothes out the closet at her, she can’t help but wonder what Cookie’s up to. Leather scrunch boots with a floral miniskirt? Together? Seriously?

After dragging Charley out the door and trying unsuccessfully to stuff her into a trunk—mostly ‘cause Charley pitches a fit—Cookie finally explains that a friend of hers named Mimi disappeared five days earlier and that she just got a text from her setting up a meet at a coffee shop downtown. They show up at the coffee shop, but no Mimi. After a brief investigation, Charley finds a message on the bathroom wall. Mimi left a clue, a woman’s name. They head to the parking lot only to be accosted by a frantic husband with a gun. After some soothing words and a few deep breathing exercises, the husband, aka Warren Jacobs, hires Charley to find his wife. He explains that his wife had been acting strange since she found out an old friend of hers from high school had been found murdered a couple weeks prior. The same woman Mimi had named in her message.

Meanwhile, Reyes Alexander Farrow (otherwise known as the Son of Satan. Yes. Literally) has left his corporeal body and is haunting Charley. He’s left his body because he’s being tortured by demons who want to lure Charley closer. But Reyes can’t let that happen. Because if the demons get to Charley, they’ll have a portal to heaven. And if they have a portal to heaven…well, let’s just say it wouldn’t be pretty. Can Charley handle hot nights with Reyes and even hotter days tracking down a missing woman? Will Cookie ever get a true fashion sense? And is there enough coffee and chocolate in the world to fuel them as they do?

BOOK THREE BLURB:

Charley Davidson—grim reaper extraordinaire, private investigator . . . meh—is practicing her profession under the influence, caffeine and copious amounts of it, due to an extreme desire to induce insomnia. Every time she closes her eyes, Reyes Farrow, the part-human, part-supermodel son of Satan, is there. Only thing is, he’s a tad peeved. She did bind for all eternity, so it’s hard blame him. But 13 days without a wink is bound to bring out the crazy in a girl. So, when a man hires her to find his wife, Charley accepts the job with one goal in mind: Put the man behind bars, and not the wet kind. She can sense the guilt waft off him and vows to find the woman’s body and prove he’s a murderer.

In the meantime, Reyes is back in prison and none too happy about it . . . so Charley thinks, until she is carjacked by the dark-haired rake, who swears the very man he went to prison for killing is not only alive, but close by. And he wants Charley to find him.

While a visit to her old friend Rocket sheds no light on Reyes’s situation, Charley finds out the man’s wife is still alive and time is running out. Finding her before she dies would be a miracle, but she has to try. Together with the help of a fashion-impaired receptionist named Cookie, Charley sets out to bring the bad guys to justice. She just hopes Reyes is not one of them. And that she’s not hallucinating from her self-induced bout with insomnia.

If you would like to win a paperback copy of each of these great books, just leave a comment in the comments section below. The contest open to all, and the winner to be chosen through random.org. Remember the deadline is this Friday, October 31 at midnight, pacific time. The winner will be contacted via email the next day, so be sure to leave a valid one. The winner will have a week to respond with a physical mailing address, or the prize will be forfeit and we will draw a new winner.

Good luck!

Rika and Chaos Ashton

(aka The Grim Reaper’s Honorary Publicists)


Throwback Thursday: THE MAD, BAD DUKE by Jennifer Ashley

I’m sharing an old favourite this week for Throwback Thursday. It was one of the very first Jennifer Ashley novels I read, and the novel that made me realize that I was madly, badly in love with her writing.

Introducing….

The Mad, Bad Duke by Jennifer Ashley!

Meagan Tavistock can easily see how Alexander earned the nickname Mad, Bad Duke. His deep blue eyes promise sinful pleasure and his rich voice intimates that as soon as they are skin to skin, he’ll fulfill desires she isn’t even aware of.

When a love spell misses its intended target, Meagan can no longer resist the temptation…until the magic wears off, leaving the pair in a most compromising position. Their only option is a marriage that thrusts Meagan into a new world of high danger, dark secrets, and a passion so intense she can’t help wondering: Is it the lingering power of the spell or true love at last?

The second of the Nvengaria series, The Mad, Bad Duke was the reason I went back and read Penelope and Prince Charming – an equally delightful tale, but Meagan and Alexander have a special place in my heart.

Alexander came of as cold initially, but boy was he HOT! And Meagan was a sweetheart from start to finish. The novel had everything that my paranormal and historical loving heart desired – magic and carriages and lavish parties. In fact, just thinking about the book makes me want to read it again. 🙂

Rika Ashton

(aka The Madly, Badly Still in Love)


Throwback Thursday: HIS LADY BRIDE by Shayla Black

I came across this historical reissue by Shayla Black yesterday as I was browsing my library for new reading materials. His Lady Bride was originally published in 2000 under the name Shelley Bradley, but Ms. Black has been self-publishing and re-releasing a few of her older novels written with this pen name.

Cover of the 2014 reissue

Return to an age of danger and chivalry, when three daring knights—fostered together since boyhood in the warrior tradition—face their greatest challenge: winning the hearts of the women they love.

A passionate battle of wills…

He was a legend on the battlefield, but Aric Neville, known throughout England as the White Lion, had had his fill of intrigue and bloodshed. So he threw down his sword and walked away, to live a solitary life, cultivating a reputation as a sorcerer. But his prized tranquility was shattered when the villagers brought him a bride.

Gwenyth de Auburd was a raven-haired beauty too impudent to ignore and too tempting to resist. When the war raging around them sucked Aric into his past again, he also fought a losing battle against his undeniable desire for the luscious, willful maiden… only to learn that he had come to cherish as his wife

I started the novel last night and I’m a quarter of the way through. It’s definitely entertaining and amusing, although at times I wasn’t fond of the heroine, Gwenyth. Gwenyth came across as a bit selfish at first, but through no fault of her own. But as I read further into the novel, I had to reexamine my opinion of the heroine. The more I read, I realized that Gwenyth was ambitious rather than selfish. She really didn’t want anything more for herself than what anyone could expect. I nice home, food, clothes, etc.

However, the problem was that I had gotten to know Aric, the hero, better from the beginning. I got to read about the disastrous war with Richard III, and how this affected him, so naturally I had begun to empathize with him from the start. I understood Aric desire for peace away from the horrors he had lived through.

Nonetheless, had I not read about Aric or known about his past from the start, my opinion of him would have been completely different. I certainly would have empathized with Gwenyth for being saddled with an ambition-less bum for a husband more openly because that is what he would have come across as.

So far Gwenyth and Aric are really making me question making snap judgments about characters…all this and I’m not even halfway through the book.

Original cover from 2000

Have you ever met a character that made you doubt the importance of first impressions? What book were they in? What did you learn about yourself as a reader?

Rika Ashton

(aka The Introspective One)