Tag Archives: Family

Lord of Pleasure (Rogues to Riches series, Book 2) by Erica Ridley

Michael Rutland, the Earl of Wainwright, commonly referred to as the Lord of Pleasure, is sick of constantly having his life appear as a caricature in the newspapers. It’s not his fault that women are taken not just with his title, but also his good lucks. All he does is try to be polite and complimentary to those he meets – so, why the fuss? And if he does consider a tryst with a woman of his acquaintance, it’s not with a debutante, but a more worldly woman, often a widow. He’s not the sort to take advantage or “ruin” a young lady. Yet, his critics accuse him of all sorts of things, mostly sordid. To make matters worse his best friends, Maxwell Gideon and Lord Hawkridge, have taken to displaying those very illustrations around his favorite hangout, the Cloven Hoof. Determined to change his reputation he vows to live quietly and keep his face out of the “comics” for forty days. Bets are made and the wager begins. No saint, he decides to attend the Duke of Lambley’s infamously bawdy Masquerade Ball for some discreet entertainment. Here he meets and becomes fascinated by Lady X. Of course, the rules of the establishment are “no names” (thus the masks) and neither Lambley or the amiable doorkeeper Phillip Fairfax are talking (see Lord of Chance, Book One of the Rogues to Riches series).

Then there’s Miss Camellia Grenville whose parents have just revealed she is to marry Mr Irving Bost from out of the way North Umbria. He’s coming in a month to start the marriage process, willing to make her his wife, sight unseen, based on her reputation as a good girl who never causes trouble – unlike her two hoyden sisters, Dahlia and Bryony. Despite having a father who is a Baron, the Grenville family seems to live on the fringes of The Ton, with their claim to fame the popular musicales they perform in their home. Middle daughter Dahlia runs a school for disadvantaged girls and has developed a distaste for Lord Wainwright when he inadvertently criticizes her endeavor causing her to lose some prospective critical funding. All three sisters band together in their hostility towards the earl who seems as frivolous as the scandal sheets imply. When they do meet, he is not given a warm welcome but asked to leave. The eldest daughter intrigues him with her bluntness versus the swooning he usually gets from females, even ones at the advanced age of twenty six. Little does he know that she’s the beautiful and alluring Lady X who is stealing his heart. Nor does she suspects he’s the bewitching Lord X who charms her each Saturday while she takes advantage of her last moments of freedom before the unwanted looming marriage.

Well written and intriguing with witty repartee and some interesting side trips, Lord of Pleasure is one of Erica Ridley’s better Regency Romances – Book 2 in the Rogues to Riches series. While the Musicales at the Grenville home featuring Camellia as the soloist, accompanied by her sister Bryony and brother Heath (Dahlia has no musical talent), have been repeatedly referred to as a must see event in the Dukes of War series, the sisters have never been front and center and the trio presents an interesting dynamic. The cluelessness which over shadows the entire affair provides a few head wags and while the Grenville parents seem heartless in marrying off their eldest daughter who would prefer to spend her days reading or huddling with her siblings, they truly love her and want what’s best. They even support, albeit reluctantly, their headstrong offspring in some outrageous life choices (see future books in the series).

While the author’s tendency to repeat the main character’s angst is evident, it seems under control and only mildly annoying and we won’t mention those parts of the book which don’t reflect the Regency period.

Four stars and a thank you to Netgalley for providing this ARC in exchange for an honest review. This review also appears on Goodreads.


Forbidden Knight by Diana Cosby

Forbidden Knight by Diana Cosby is a sweet little Scottish Medieval Romance, short enough to read in an afternoon, long enough to be chockful of action. Mistress Alesone MacNiven is under the protection of the rightful King of Scotland, Robert the Bruce, when she comes across a group of men on horseback. Not sure if they pay allegiance to Bruce or his mortal enemy, Lord Comyn, she sends a masterful warning shot with her arrow, barely missing the heart of Sir Thomas MacKelloch. Leary of each other’s intentions, Thomas binds the maiden to keep her from escaping so he can verify her story of being the King’s healer. Once truths are revealed, the two find themselves on the way to safety in Avalon to avoid a disaster which would tear Scotland apart. Each has a series of secrets which affect their outlook on life and both feel a growing affection which doesn’t fit into either of their future plans. The road is not easy, not just because of the tough terrain, but also because the enemy is on their tail, and anyone who helps them also becomes a target. While this Medieval tale is full of violence, it is tempered with love as Sir Thomas and Alesone both attempt to reconcile their pasts. Although this is Part 2 of the Forbidden Series, you don’t need to have read the plot of Book1 to gain an understanding of the moral codes of the times.

Although well written and despite the exciting fight scenes, there was a little too much repetition in the intimacy department as the two lovers agonize over their feelings and despair that this is a romance which can never happen. With a lot of teasingly passionate moments, in the end there’s a nice twist which promises a happily ever after in spite of their doubts. The historical background regarding the Knights Templar and the strife over who will rule Scotland is an added plus.

Three and a half stars and a thank you to Netgalley for providing an ARC in exchange for an honest review.

This review also appears on Goodreads.

Ordinary Grace by William Kent Kreuger

Unlike many novels which highlight dysfunctional relationships, Ordinary Grace by William Kent Krueger introduces us to the Drums, a loving family leading what, on the surface, appears to be an idyllic life.

It was the summer of 1961 in a small town in Minnesota when a series of deaths shake up the lives of the village, especially the pastor, Nathan Drum, his wife Ruth, and their three children Ariel, Frank, and Jake.

At thirteen, Frank is not quite old enough to be included in the loop so he uses every opportunity he can to tag along when events are happening. Eleven year old Jake takes advantage of his big brothers wheedling and comes along for the ride.Since the grown ups aren’t forthcoming, Frank finds a way to secretly listen in to adult conversations and snoop around to fill in the blanks. However, sometimes eaves dropping can be a heavy burden. Secrets have a way of complicating life, resulting in feelings of guilt and reticence. Yet the information the boys hold close are the very facts which are needed to answer the mystery which will redefine their lives. The problem is deciding which secrets to tell and which ones must be kept quiet.

Jake, afflicted with a stutter, has what some people would call “the sight” because, since he is reluctant to speak, he listens and has an innate understanding of people and events. Although he is more of a sidekick, in a way one might consider Jake the hero of this novel.

It is the captivating Ariel, ready for college at Juilliard, who is the spark of the family with her musical talent and light hearted loving relationships with family and friends.

The setting is one of the major players in the story -from the railroad tracks to the river to the location of the church across from the parsonage – each locale becoming an important focal point in advancing the plot.

One of the many positives of this novel is the development of the numerous characters, both primary and secondary. Knowing that Kreuger’s favorite novel is To Kill a Mockingbird, you can see the influence of an Atticus Finch on the Methodist Pastor.

One can also see touches of Hemingway where what is not said is just as important as what is said. The author finds no need to explain every fact, for example, the reader is left to ponder what tragic event happened to Nathan during WWII which made him switch careers from lawyer to pastor.

Although I felt the book had a slow start, it quickly picked up speed and easily engages the reader throughout the first half of the story. While the second half is just as exciting, it is difficult to read due to the tragedy which befalls the Drum family. Even though the events are hinted at in the first chapter of the book, it is still heart wrenching to read of such loss. Kudos to the author for presenting an accurate reaction to such events through the individual thoughts and behaviors of the various townsfolk. Anyone who has experienced a similar heartache will relate to (and possibly relive) these feelings.

Closure to this saga is abruptly presented at the very end of the book, not giving the reader much time to process the information, although the epilogue ties up some of the loose ends quick nicely.

Told by an adult Frank looking back on that fateful summer, Ordinary Grace is a well written, engaging story. Four stars. This review also appears on Goodreads.

Inside the O’Briens by Lisa Genova

I was aware of the author Lisa Genova from the success of her book, Still Alice, so when given the opportunity, I was pleased that Netgalley and Simon & Schuster provided me an ARC of her novel, Inside The O’Briens, in exchange for an honest review.

Prior to the opening chapter, Genova introduces us to the symptoms of Huntington’s Disease (HD). Here is one of those horrendous illnesses which slowly robs the “victim” of control over various neurological functions worsening over time until they reach their inevitable death. Not only is there no cure, but there is little known about medical treatments to halt or lessen the symptoms. To make matters worse, since this is a genetic disease, the children of an infected parent have a fifty percent chance of also contracting HD. Symptoms don’t usually occur until the age of 35-45 with a life expectancy of an additional ten to twenty years. However, there are instances of early onset of this disease, robbing the individual of several decades of symptomless living.

A heart-wrenching topic which I normally would avoid (since ignorance is bliss), I was unwillingly drawn inside the life of the O’Brien family. Joseph and Rose began their relationship at the young age of eighteen, forced to marry when Rose became pregnant with eldest son JJ. Remaining in the same neighborhood where they spent their own youth, not far from historic Boston, the loving couple raise four children steeped in the Irish Catholic traditions of their ancestors. The opening chapter features a thirty-five year old Joe, a member of the Boston Police Department, having a melt down, expressing rage when he can’t find his keys and will be late for work. Fast forward ten years and Joe’s weird behaviors prompt his wife to take him to a neurologist for a check up. Joe insists his troubles stem from an old knee injury and dismisses the possibility of anything serious. When a diagnosis of the rare Huntington’s Disease is confirmed, the life of the O’Briens is irreconcilably changed. Not only does the family have to watch the symptoms slowly creep and take control of their father/husband, they also have to deal with the fact that all four offspring could have inherited this genetic marker. The story is told from the viewpoints of Joe, Rose, and youngest daughter Katie, revealing how siblings JJ, Patrick, Meghan, and Katie and their parents deal with the progression of the disease and their individual future prognosis.

Genova has a unique gift of sensitively dealing with the strength of character and human foibles required of individuals and families dealing with the crisis of life changing diseases, such as Alzheimer’s, Autism, or Huntington’s Disease. What is so compelling about Inside the O’Briens is that Genova brings us into the world of this family, making us care about their daily struggles. It’s a family not unlike many others filled with an underlying love of a life filled with badly cooked meals, mismatched dishes, old furniture, and the jealousy, squabbling,and closeness shared between siblings. While this might sound boring, it creates an entertaining “fly on the wall” peek at Sunday dinners and other family events. We feel the disappointments and triumphs of the characters as they deal with their day to day trials and tribulations. Even while we root for success, the reality of the inevitable ending is never a secret. Yet the focus is on life, and not death, despite the expected insecurities of all involved.

While I whole heartedly give this book four stars with a strong recommendation, my one complaint is a bit of repetition within the plot and the introspections of the main characters. The ending is also abrupt, resulting in an “oh no, you didn’t”, leaving us wanting more. Yet the results of Genova’s research is evident, easily leading to her heartfelt plea for donations towards research in this field, which with only 35,000 cases (versus 3 million individuals with breast cancer) does not receive the attention it deserves.

This review also appears on Goodreads.

For This Life Only by Stacy Kade

Jacob Palmer is a PK or Pastor’s Kid and has difficulty living under the family strictures requiring him to always be on his best behavior since the neighbors might be watching and judging his actions. To make matters worse, his twin brother Elijah is on the fast track to follow in the steps of both his father and grandfather to become the pastor at the local church which has become a family legacy. Needing to get away from another night of scrabble with his parents and young sister Sarah, Jace takes off to hang out with his friends, bumming a ride off his twin. Making it an early night so as not to break curfew, he has to call Eli to pick him up after he accidentally gets doused with a cup of beer (can’t let his dad know he’s had a sip or two). On the way home the car spins out on a patch of ice and their vehicle goes over the bridge killing one boy and almost taking the life of the other.

Even as he physically begins to mend, life for Jacob will never be the same. No longer able to throw the ball, his goal of a college sports scholarship is out the window. That’s the least of his worries as he has to adjust to a new family dynamic with broken parents and a traumatized baby sister as he carries the guilt of his brother’s death on his shoulders and tries to avoid the well
meaning platitudes of his classmates and the community.

Inexplicably Jacob finds himself seeking comfort from the school pariah, the daughter of the psychic who lives across the street from the church with the garish neon sign which makes his dad fume. This girl is off limits even to his friends since they hold her responsible for losing the state championship when two seniors were suspended based on her allegations of sexual harassment. Yet Jace sees a different side to the once hated Thera and, through her, starts to view life via a different lens.

For This Life Only by Stacy Kade is a powerful story dealing with some heavy topics such as sexual abuse, faith and religion, death and grief, loyalty and rejection. Kade shows a realistic snapshot of a family trying to deal with a senseless loss.

While there’s a lot going on with various subplots, unfortunately many of the characters aren’t fully developed and the story doesn’t quite gel. A further complication is the quick but confusing resolution leaving out some pertinent details which prevent the reader from attaining a fulfilling closure. While many YA books tend to be too wordy and need a little editing, this one could have easily added another fifty pages to properly wrap things up instead of using an epilogue to try and put a bow on a slightly incomplete story.

Three and a half stars and a thank you to Netgalley for providing this ARC in exchange for an honest review. This review also appears on my blog, Gotta Read.

Sacrificed (Enhanced Series: Book 2) by Courtney Farrell

I like when sequels just pick up the storyline where they left off with minimal explanation of the back story. Each book should be able to stand on its own two feet (or binding) but allow the dedicated reader to have an “enhanced” understanding of the motivations and plot. Such is the case with the novel Sacrificed by Courtney Farrell, Book Two of the Enhanced Series.

Here we have Michelle waiting for her boyfriend Dillon to arrive so they can set off on their assigned mission. In pops Brian, her brother’s best friend and the boy she has adored since her younger days. It seems he’s going with them and he doesn’t hold back that he’s available if Dillon doesn’t work out. Awkward! Before Michelle has a chance to think things through, the original mission is scrubbed and she and almost the whole gang (from Book One: Enhanced) are on their way to the remote, arctic Iron Torr, a place which holds bad childhood memories. On arrival, they are attacked by the Rebel Norms, barely making it to safety. Inside Iron Torr, the group gets a mixed welcome from leader Colonel Parker who, once they are rested, sends them outside the military compound to repair the communications equipment. Despite precautions, Michelle is captured.

“A life for a life” as the Norms say, and Michelle ends up adopted by widowed Mollie. Enhanced abilities allows her to assist the inhabitants of the village even while she plots her escape and return to Iron Torr where she hopes to discover the fate of the rest of her group. In the meantime, Dillon has made some discoveries of his own as he goes through treatments back at Iron Torr to upgrade the dormant enhancements buried deep in his persona. No one seems to mind that his father was only a norm, but when it is time to rescue his friends, he must abide by Parker’s Master Plan – a strategy which just doesn’t sit right with his upbringing, especially since the norms who have survived the plague now have at least one enhanced Gene which make them Rebels who are now smarter or stronger.

Nothing is as it seems. Sacrificed is an excellent term to explain the situation the teenagers find themselves in. All that training to be the best of the best as enhanced human beings, yet trained to do what? And for whose benefit?

While Sacrificed picks up where Enhanced left off (Michelle is now sixteen), the majority of this book takes place in a new setting. Some questions are answered, especially about Dillon’s past, yet a whole slew of new ones pop up. In fact, there are so many open ended plot lines that I was often confused. It was impossible to distinguish between the good guys and the bad ones due to all the deceptions by both enhanced and norms. After awhile, I decided to just sit back and stop trying to forsee what happens as the plot unfolded. Even then, much of the action was extremely murky. This was definitely not a quick read with too many characters to keep straight and just as many plot twists. Parts of the story dragged, while other sections needed to be expanded. Sacrificed was excessively violent since warfare was its central theme and the next book in the series promises to be more of the same. The focus was the development of the two main characters, Michelle and Dillon, who alternately tell the story from their point of view. The other characters from Book One only serve as backups, although Brian does have an important role to play as Dillon’s best friend as well as competitor. Colonel Parker and his wife, Brooke, are also major players along with their son, Slade, who slips in and out of both worlds. While we know the background of the teens, it is impossible to understand exactly what motivates the people of Torr, even with the various clues which Farrell has left. The ending indicates that some of these issues will be resolved in the next book, as the leader of Iron Torr has not completed his master plan.

As in any good YA book, the teens seem to be smarter than their parents, so hopefully these youngsters will find solutions and bring peace to all factions with the series finding some sort of closure in Book Three.

Three stars. I would like to thank author Courtney Farrell for sending me this ARC in exchange for an honest review.

Enhanced by Courtney Farrell

I love a story that has enough twists, turns, and surprises that one is compelled to continue reading in order to find out what happens next. Such is the situation in Enhanced by Courtney Farrell, a dystopian novel where the created world only slightly resembles life as we know it. Here is a community ruled by controlled genetics with the haves, called the Enhanced, living with luxuries which are restricted for the have nots or “wild-bred” Norms. Even amongst the Enhanced, there is a hierarchy based upon the skills of the children – skills which are continually tested by Dr Salmon and his staff. These “examinations” might consist of physical group challenges or they could be an individual session to determine ones tolerance to pain. Or, perhaps, the children are used as human guinea pigs to discover the outcome of an experimental procedure or theory. Death, which occurs on occasion, is not a factor to be considered by these heartless scientists. Children quickly learn that any deficiency, whether intellectual, mental, or physical, counts against their score. The goal is to be rated worthy enough to be chosen as a breeder. At the other end of the scale is the “culling” ceremony where the deficient, those who are not strong enough or smart enough to be accepted into the group, are kicked out. These lesser individuals are forced to permanently leave their family and friends behind as they enter the world of the Norms – a place where poverty leads to hunger and violence in a community which attempts to survive outside the walls of the elite.

Brian who has just turned eighteen (the magic age where students are supposedly no longer candidates for experimentation) has amazingly been summoned, along with his best friend Seth, to the vacant laboratory of the abhorrent Dr Salmon where an unidentified object is inserted under their skin. This is the same Dr Salmon who internally “examines” young girls in a predatory manner just to make sure they aren’t riddled with cancer (an impossibility since the Enhanced have been bred to resist diseases). All the youngsters dread the doctor, but their fear of being targeted and bringing disgrace to their families keeps them silent. After all, being culled is literally a fate worse than death since it ends existence in their known universe.

Our inquisitive heroine, Michelle, at fifteen is one of the top students, yet she has to hide all her fears and anxieties so as not to exhibit any weaknesses. Her feisty brother, Seth, is also an exemplary member of society. Their parents are part of the leadership of the community. In fact, their grandfather is the leading member whose long life can be attributed to regular “treatments” to stay “younger” than his real age. Yet, even being amongst the most privileged of the privileged, living in a fine home with servants and owning all of the most current gadgets, does not protect them from the Council if a rule is broken.

Michelle has several close friends and together they figure out that something is not quite right in their community. Their lives have begun to change even before Seth and Brian are sent beyond the wall by the Institution to intermingle with the Norms. While on her mission to locate the two boys, Michelle realizes that the servants and other Norms aren’t mindless fools, but individuals with abilities and emotions. She starts to see beyond her seemingly perfect world in her quest to expose the secrets that Dr Salmon is withholding from the Council. Secrets which will have an impact on everyone if she fails to uncover them in time. In fact, in her search for the truth, she discovers that almost every aspect of her life is a puzzling illusion which she must decipher in order to save the earth from harm. Whether she is successful in her endeavors is up to the reader to decide.

This is an intriguing, well told tale. The teenage characters are defined in exquisite detail, with the perplexities of Enhanced society slowly revealed through their eyes as they unravel the mysteries which dictate their lives. I found this book to be a quick read, although the climax was a bit rushed and the conclusion less than satisfying (perhaps because the author wanted to use the lack of closure as a teaser to encourage us to read the sequel). Young Adults will enjoy this foray into a study of the possible effects of Extreme Eugenics which includes plenty of action plus a touch of romance. Four Stars.

I would like to thank the author for allowing me a free copy of her novel in exchange for an honest review which I am posting on Amazon, Goodreads, and on my blog, Gotta Read.