Favourite Authors

The Girl Who Started Something New

Earlier today, Jayne Ann Krentz revealed the full cover for her upcoming novel, The Girl Who Knew Too Much (written under the pseudonym Amanda Quick) on her Facebook page.

In her next historical novel, Ms. Quick is going to take on a whole new era – the 1930s! Romantic suspense against the backdrop of old Hollywood seems like the perfect recipe for a great story, so I am very excited to see where she takes her latest novel.

The American 1930s is an era that hasn’t been explored all that much in the romance genre. Writers, like Johanna Lindsey, have taken on the Wild West – which makes for a romantic read – but Old Hollywood seems to be left mainly alone…with only some of the older novels by Anne Stuart coming to mind. In fact, Goodreads lists only a total of a little over fifty books set in this time frame – which is a very small number considering how large the romance industry actually is.

And it’s not just the American 1930s that lack exploration, but whole other eras and even countries – with that much left unwritten, imagine how many stories we’ve missed out on. Oh, the lost words!

I hope other historical romance writers begin to expand out of the Regency and Victorian eras in Britain – not that I don’t love those eras, because I do and I will always read more stories set in these times – but for those rainy days when you crave variety, it’s time to tell new stories!

Thank you Amanda Quick for taking on something new and for reminding me that there are always new stories to tell!

The ever grateful,

Rika Ashton

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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


Blurb Reveal: THE GIRL WHO KNEW TOO MUCH by Amanda Quick

Edited to add (August 17, 2016): Jayne Ann Krentz tweeted me about a name change for the hero. I will edit to add the new name once we have details.

Edited to add (August 18, 2016): The hero’s new name has been added. The old name was Hutton Axton in case anyone was interested. 

I stumbled across some news about the next Amanda Quick novel by accident, but it comes from a trusted source. Get this, the next novel is titled The Girl Who Knew Too Much (which sounds amazing) and it’s set in the 1930s!

And here’s the amazing back blurb I found:

Welcome to Burning Cove, California, an idyllic small town on the coast that has become a refuge for Hollywood moguls and stars seeking privacy for scandalous trysts and wild parties…

Cordelia Carter is a reporter working undercover for Whispers, a Los Angeles based gossip tabloid. She arrives in Burning Cove on the trail of the biggest story of her career.

Oliver Ward is the new, enigmatic owner of one of the most elegant resort-spas in Burning Cove. Before he can get a read on the mysterious Cordelia, she discovers the body of a beautiful, fast-rising film star in one of the hotel spa pools. It soon becomes apparent to Oliver that Cordelia, as the first person on the scene of the murder, may be a suspect. As for Cordelia, she is convinced that the killer she’s trailing has committed murder again.

I did a little (or a big) happy dance after reading this blurb. The whole concept seems so exciting and new, but have the romantic suspense undertones that we know and love in an Amanda Quick novel.

As of now, the novel is set for a May 9, 2017 release. And, of course, because the release date is so far away some details of the book may change (title, etc)…but I hope not, because it sounds pretty exciting as it is!

Can’t wait,

Rika Ashton (aka Breaking News Reporter)


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

 


Readers’ Watchlist: INTO THE FIRE by Jeaniene Frost

23586994Jeaniene Frost is concluding her Night Prince series and word is that the new release date for Into the Fire is February 28, 2017. It’s been a long wait and is still going to be a lot longer…I confess, I have completely forgotten where the story ended off, so I may have to read the previous books before I get this one. (But I think I’ll wait until its closer to the release date so I don’t have to live too long with withdrawal symptoms…breaking a book habit is hard and I really don’t want to.)

For nearly six hundred years, Vlad Tepesh cared for nothing, so he had nothing to lose. His brutal reputation ensured that all but the most foolhardy stayed away. Now falling in love with Leila has put him at the mercy of his passions. And one adversary has found a devastating way to use Vlad’s new bride against him.

A powerful spell links Leila to the necromancer Mircea. If he suffers or dies, so does she. Magic is forbidden to vampires, so Vlad and Leila enlist an unlikely guide as they search for a way to break the spell. But an ancient enemy lies in wait, capable of turning Vlad and Leila’s closest friends against them…and finally tearing the lovers apart forever.

Has anyone else been keeping up with the Night Prince series?


Readers’ Watchlist: WHEN ALL THE GIRLS HAVE GONE by Jayne Ann Krentz

final_JAK.inddI’m always on the lookout for the next Jayne Ann Krentz romantic suspense and I was not disappointed when I stumbled across a blurb and cover for her next book, When All The Girls Have Gone (the title just gives me the shivers…so cool):

When Charlotte Sawyer is unable to contact her step-sister, Jocelyn, to tell her that one her closest friends was found dead, she discovers that Jocelyn has vanished.

Beautiful, brilliant—and reckless—Jocelyn has gone off the grid before, but never like this. In a desperate effort to find her, Charlotte joins forces with Max Cutler, a struggling PI who recently moved to Seattle after his previous career as a criminal profiler went down in flames—literally. Burned out, divorced and almost broke, Max needs the job.

After surviving a near-fatal attack, Charlotte and Max turn to Jocelyn’s closest friends, women in a Seattle-based online investment club, for answers. But what they find is chilling…

When her uneasy alliance with Max turns into a full-blown affair, Charlotte has no choice but to trust him with her life. For the shadows of Jocelyn’s past are threatening to consume her—and anyone else who gets in their way…

I am beyond excited for this release. Her latest works under the JAK name have featured such amazing characters and I can’t wait to read this book. Spoiler alert…it will be a page turner. When All The Girls Have Gone releases on November 29th.

Happy reading,

Rika Ashton


Cover Reveal: ARCHANGEL’S HEART by Nalini Singh

Nalini Singh shared the very stunning cover for Archangel’s Heart earlier today – and while I was lucky enough to have a sneak peek a few days before – I am still stunned by how amazing Elena looks. (Yes, I am still lusting over her dress.) Fair warning, Elena, I will be spending more time in your closet. 🙂


However, we still have a while to wait before we can read about the occasion when Elena gets to wear this blue maxi as the novel does not release until November 2016 (which is really just in time for my birthday – just thought I should put that out there in case there are any ARCs lying around).

But till then, we will have to satisfy our readerly hearts with this tease of a blurb:

One of the most vicious archangels in the world has disappeared. No one knows if Lijuan is dead or has chosen to Sleep the long sleep of an immortal. But with her lands falling into chaos under a rising tide of vampiric bloodlust, a mysterious and ancient order of angels known as the Luminata calls the entire Cadre together to discuss the fate of her territory.

Accompanying her archangelic lover Raphael to the Luminata compound, guild hunter-turned-angel Elena senses that all is not as it seems. Secrets echo from within the stone walls of the compound, and the deeper Elena goes, the uglier the darkness. But neither Raphael nor Elena is ready for the brutal truths hidden within—truths that will change everything Elena thinks she knows about who she is…

Nothing will ever be the same again.

I feel like I have been waiting for another Elena and Raphael novel since the last one ended. If you haven’t had a chance to read about this angelic (kickass but not so innocent) power couple then you are very lucky – not only do you not have to suffer book withdrawal but you get to catch up with their story before the next one releases.

Happy reading,

Rika Ashton (aka Book Addict)


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


A Psy Net Special…Nalini Singh Visits Vancouver!

Nalini Singh and Me

I think I speak for the entire audience at the Book Warehouse last night when I say that Nalini Singh was an amazing speaker during her first ever visit to Vancouver. Not only did she bring some amazing goodies for her readers, she was warm and witty. Eager readers also got some burning questions answered…though some may lead to fangirl angst, such as in the case of the Guild Hunter series – but more on that later.

Starting with some of the highlights of the night…

  • It was once again confirmed that the Psy/Changeling series is going to be a very loooong running series.
  • Ms. Singh has written a novella about the Territorial Wars. However, no one but Ms. Singh had laid eyes on it because, according to her, there is something missing and until it’s perfect she refuses to submit it to her editor. (Oh, Ms. Singh, as if you could write anything less than perfect!)
  • We will be learning something about the mating bond between Riaz and Adria in the next Psy/Changeling novel. She refused to give an answer about whether or not it is possible for them to have a mating bond at the signing – as it will be a spoiler for the upcoming novel.
  • Also Ms. Singh did share some news about the next book in the Psy/Changeling series, stating that it would be a book about family and pack.

  • For the Guild Hunter series, all of the seven will be in a happy place when the series concludes – though they may not necessarily find a love interest.
  • Ms. Singh also mentioned that she has signed a contract for two more Guild Hunter novels, and states that there will be a third – though the possibility of a fourth is uncertain.

Now for the biggest lowlight of the night…avert your eyes if you are easily depressed…

  • The Guild Hunter series will not be as long as the Psy/Changeling series, only a few more novels at most as it is a single arc series. (I find this particularly sad because Angel’s Blood was the novel that started by Nalini Singh Fangirl Craze – and Elena will always be one of my favourite characters. On the other hand, I understand Ms. Singh’s sentiments to end the series will a high note, even if it will mean tears for her and me.).

And last but not least, Ms. Singh gave up the names of some of her favourite authors:

  1. J D Robb
  2. Anne McCaffrey
  3. Laura Florands
  4. Sharon Lee
  5. Sonali Dev
  6. Meljean Brook
  7. Illona Andrews
  8. Anne Gracie
  9. Jayne Ann Krentz

Finally, among the series highlights (and lowlight), Ms. Singh shared some advice for writers and some of her tips for staying motivated and focused while working on a novel.

The night was truly inspiring and fun. It was great to meet fellow fans and share our love of the worlds Ms. Singh has created!

Autographed Shards of Hope

Biggest highlight of my night was getting my very first autographed Nalini Singh book!

Nalini Singh Book Pins

…but the swag was pretty awesome, too!

I hope you visit Vancouver again, Ms. Singh!

Rika Ashton

(aka “I may or may not have fainted when Nalini Singh walked into the room.”)

P.S: I should also mention that it was awesome to meet the very mysterious Ashwini Singh, even though I was too star-struck to start a proper conversation! (Next time, Ashwini, next time…)