Tag Archives: Scotland

At the Water’s Edge by Sara Gruen

We all know there are self centered, egotistical, SOB’s out there in the world, but that doesn’t necessarily mean we want to spend time with them, even if it is only amongst the pages of a book.

Seems that’s one of the problems of At the Water’s Edge by Sara Gruen. Ellis Hyde and his pal Hank are privileged, silver-spoons-in-their-mouths, sons of wealthy gentlemen who spend their time in frivolous pursuits, going to parties, drinking too much, and cavalcading throughout high society, annoying the patrons and getting into trouble. The two best friends have a cohort, Madeline, a woman who enjoys their company and madcap adventures. Despite her wealthy father, Maddie has a black mark against her due to the antics of her now deceased mother, so that when she marries Ellis her welcome is anything but friendly. Then on New Years Eve in 1944, the trio are especially obnoxious, and Ellis’ parents are, shall we say, not amused with the resulting gossip, so when Ellis insults his father they are ejected from the family estate and left to fend for themselves.

Ellis, whose father (the Colonel) can’t forgive him for being rejected from the military due to a case of color blindness, decides to go to Scotland and find the Loch Ness Monster, an adventure that tainted his father’s reputation several years earlier. If Ellis could just prove the monster exists, then his now proud papa would welcome him back with open arms and reinstate his allowance.

Unfortunately there is a war going on, so they must travel overseas bunked down like commoners in a military convoy and to make matters worse, once they arrive in Scotland their welcome is less than cordial. The search for the monster is a lot more difficult than expected, and the two friend’s behavior gets more and more outrageous fueled by alcohol and the little pills prescribed to Maddie for her “nervous condition”. Maddie soon distances herself from her husband and Hank, finding more in common with the humble folks who live and work at the inn. The true personalities of each of the characters are revealed as they deal with their struggles and Maddie comes to terms with her choices in life making a decision which totally alters the fate of everyone involved leading to a twisted resolution.

While the story takes place towards the end of WWII, the war is more of a backdrop than an integral part of the story although there are black out curtains, ration books, gas masks, and several air raids. Scotland, complete with castle, is the main focus of the narrative as the inhabitants try to eke out a living in difficult times.

This was a hard book to get into, not grabbing ones’ interest until almost half way through, probably because of the despicable characters. I did borrow the audiobook, dramatically read by Justine Eyre, to get me over the hump, then finished with the written word.

I’m not sure if I buy this tale, it’s a little far fetched and I question the shift in Ellis from a spoiled brat into an evil man. Although I usually look for the good in people (in life as well as in literature), by the end of the book he had no redeeming qualities left to discuss. There was also a romance which seemed to come out of nowhere, even though there were some subtle hints of this possibility along the way.

Three 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.

A Love to Remember (The Disgraced Lords, #7) by Bronwen Evans

I’ve just gotten back from a little trip to England to visit my old friends from The Ton, you know, the Libertine Scholars, and do I have some juicy gossip to share. It seems Philip Flagstaff, the Earl of Cumberland, has been having an affair with Her Grace, Lady Rose Deverill, the Wicked Widow. It’s a perfect arrangement because neither one is interested in matrimony. Rose had a terrible first marriage, forced to marry an older man who was, shall I say, not very considerate of her “needs”. The only good thing that came from the relationship was her son, Drake. Of course, she did inherit the estate (her father wasn’t a total fool when handing her over to a distasteful elderly husband) and her son will be the Duke of Roxborough when he reaches his majority. In the meantime The Marquis of Kirkwood is his guardian, watching out for his interests. Luckily, the kind man has pretty much stayed out of her business, but she expects he soon will be making some demands. After all, it’s no secret that Philip was seen dancing with the current popular debutant and ignoring her at the latest fete. If their affair is truly over, Kirkwood might think it time for her to settle down, especially since she’s only twenty six and still lovely.

It’s not that she and Philip don’t get along, they do very well in the boudoir together, more than okay. It’s just that Philip is still grieving for his brother, Robert, who sacrificed his life at the Battle of Waterloo in order to protect his “little brother”. It’s Philip’s fault that Robert is dead so he doesn’t feel he’s entitled to the title he inherited. Philip has been a screwup all his life and he doesn’t believe he’s deserves any happiness, especially not with the beautiful and charming Rose. No, marriage is out, not to Rose, not to anyone. Let the succession line fall to his younger brother, a clone of Robert and more worthy of the honor.

Unfortunately, Philips sister, Lady Portia (remember how she was kidnapped and sold to a sultan’s harem in Alexandria, rescued in the nick of time by Philip and her future husband, Lord Greyson Devlin) is none too happy about her brother’s behavior. The others think he’s a fool as well. Then when he showed up at Serena’s dinner party with another woman, they practically attacked him. Poor Rose had to deal with this public display of humiliation.

It will take a miracle to shake some sense into that man. Or perhaps a disaster that needs the help of those six friends (and their wives) to resolve. I’m curious to see how it all works out. There are so many rumors, but that would be telling.

A Love to Remember by Bronwen Evans is a continuation of the Libertine Scholars saga. Now that Arend has his happy ending and the mystery woman that was trying to destroy their lives has been captured, the six men and their wives are living in wedded bliss raising the numerous children who seem to come in waves. However, Philip’s life has not been resolved. When his brother, the seventh Libertine Scholar was killed in battle, the others vowed to look out for his wellbeing. After all, his sister is married to Greyson and family is family. Rose, Lady Portia’s best friend, is also an honorary member of the group. Plus Rose’s son is best friends with Henry, a young boy under Sebastian and Beatrice’s care, so Evans is obligated to “tie up the loose ends”.

I was excited to touch base with all the characters from the first six book in the The Disgraced Lords series. Since each of the storylines overlapped in some way, there’s only been about two years between the beginning tale and this book. While A Love to Remember can serve as a stand alone, reading the other novels will give a better perspective on the wide cast of characters.

As enjoyable as I found this novel, which had a twist or two in the plot, I was disappointed that the author felt the need to be so repetitive. Yes, Rose was in love and wanted to marry Philip. Yes, Philip felt honor bound to never marry as a penance for his brothers death, but how many times did we need to hear this? Too many times if you ask me or enough to detract from the whole. Once again, Evans needs to tighten up the plot and leave out the miscellaneous – more libertine scholars, less introspection. She did, however, include some juicy dialogue, as the two lovers exchanged some sexy reparte.

As a reminder, lovers of Regency Romances who like accuracy in the details from this era should avoid this series. However, those who like a good romp with a happily ever after ending should dig right in. Three and a half stars.

Thank you to Netgalley for providing this ARC in exchange for an honest review. This review also appears on Goodreads.

My Lady Jane by Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, and Jodi Meadows

We all know that King Henry VIII was obsessed with his legacy which is one of the reasons he ended up with six wives. It also led to England’s break with the Pope who refused to annul Henry’s first marriage. When the King died, his only son Edward became the new King of England at the age of nine, with the crown being controlled by a series of “advisers” whose chief purpose was to line their own pockets, profiting from pilfered land and the titles and funds associated with those properties. Whether King Edward VI, at the age of fifteen, died of TB or was poisoned is still up to conjecture, but immediately prior to his death he signed a proclamation naming his cousin, Lady Jane Grey and her progeny, next in line to the throne in order to keep his older half sister, Mary, from taking control of the country. Mary had different ideas about the succession, imprisoning Lady Jane and eventually beheading her for treason. Jane’s total term as Queen lasted only nine days. Queen Mary I, a devout Catholic, sought revenge for her father’s persecution against the priesthood by beheading self proclaimed Protestants, earning her the title of Bloody Mary. After five years on the throne, Mary died childless, possibly of ovarian or uterine cancer, and her younger half sister Elizabeth ascended to power and ruled for forty five years undoing the damage of Mary’s fanaticism by encouraging the Protestant Church to grow and flourish.

Many writers have replicated these events in books and various theatrical events. However, when three YA authors got together, they decided it would be fun to create an alternative interpretation of these historic events and present an irreverent version of the fate befalling the Tudors in the 1550’s. Instead of dealing with a religious conflict in My Lady Jane, the authors, Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, and Jodi Meadows, elected to bestow an alter ego to the population, allowing select individuals to have a separate “personality” in the form of an animal. These Edians were discriminated against by the Verities – those individuals who did not have the shape shifting gene.

In this fantasy, King Edward barely manages to escape a death by poison, changing into a kestrel and flying to safety. Lady Jane finds herself married to Lord G who is a horse by day, while she morphs into a ferret each night. Using their animal forms, the two are able to allude their executioners. Filling in the blanks with real and imaginary details, the three authors painstakingly paint an absurd portrait of love, romance, betrayal, and conflict as Edward seeks a path back to the throne. Unfortunately, the fantasy portion is in direct conflict with reality, so they also need to develop an imaginative conclusion which somewhat coincides with the realm of possibility.

The readers can tell the authors had a good time ad-libbing an amusing variant to English history. They did their research, visiting such locales as the Tower of London and interviewing historians about the sequence of events. They even threw in some salacious tidbits, such as the scandalous behavior of Lady Jane’s mother running off with the horse master, which sounds like fiction, but is actually true. Unfortunately, I found the entire book too silly for my taste, and at times annoying, especially since the plot dragged on and on for close to 500 pages. While I normally have a sense of humor, (I enjoyed Spelled by Betsy Schow, a twisted version of The Wizard of Oz) and am no stranger to books featuring shape shifters or alternate paths (Think Pride and Prejudice and Zombies by Seth Grahame-Smith), this book fell short.

Now don’t let me keep you from reading this novel. There are many who loved the premise and its implementation (it was even voted the Goodreads Choice Award for Young Adult Fantasy & Science Fiction in 2016), I’m just not one of them. However, kudos for introducing a whole generation of readers to the little known historical event where Lady Jane Gray served a brief stint in the monarchy of England. So for finding a unique way to educate the average reader – three stars. (If you want to read a superior fantasy, although not written to be humorous, that involves animals and humans – please check out Philip Pullman’s Dark Materials trilogy).

A Most Inconvenient Wish by Eileen Richards (A Lady’s Wish, #3)

It’s been five years and two kids since elder sister Anne married Nathaniel Matthews (An Unexpected Wish, A Lady’s Wish Book One) and three years since younger sister Juliet married Nathaniel’s little brother Tony, (An Honorable Wish, A Lady’s Wish Book Two), now the beauty of the family, Sophia Townsend, decides to climb to the top of the Fairy Steps and make her marriage wish. Unfortunately, the pesky Scott, Ian McDonald, who a partnered with her brothers-in-law, follows her up to the top, and in exasperation at his interference she makes the wrong wish in A Most Inconvenient Wish (A Lady’s Wish Book Three) by Eileen Richards.

While her siblings married for love, Sophia just wants the comfort of a title and the excitement of the whirlwind of London society, but Nathaniel vows there will be no more seasons. He’s ready to permanently settle down at The Lodge with his wife and children. Sophia has turned down all her suitors, none which have fit her ideal. Yet she has one last chance, inviting Lord Geoffrey Bateman and his sister Lady Catherine for a house visit. The Earl was especially attentive this last season, with The Ton abuzz about the expected proposal. Unfortunately, Geoffrey arrives with his new bride to be (along with her generous dowry) in toe. While he enjoyed his time with Sophia, Bateman needs to marry for money. Love was never a part of the picture. He’s so desperate that he even tries to broker a marriage between the wealthy sheep farmer Ian and his sister to get the cash he needs to maintain his dignified lifestyle. McDonald, whose father was the steward for the Bateman estate, wants nothing to do with the deal, but is willing to purchase the land neighboring their two properties at a fair price.

Complications ensue as the house guests don’t always display the best manners, and Sophie rues the day she impulsively invited them into their midst. The antagonistic relationship between Sophia and Ian fluctuates between harmony and discord as the two try to decide if their vastly different goals matter in the grand scheme of things.

While Richards always comes up with an interesting plot with a compelling beginning and ending, she has trouble somewhere in the middle, meandering about with too much repetition amongst the action. She definitely needs a reminder to show and not tell and tell and tell again. Better a tight 250 page Regency Romance than a rambling one of 300 pages. I was often confused, especially regarding the inconsistent actions of the characters, and the vague generalizations alluded to in the text. Was Geoffrey a decent, but proud man caught in a difficult situation, or was he a raving lunatic? The mantra about desperate men doing desperate things didn’t quite cover some of his (or his sister’s) evil behaviors.

This story, however, has a little more meat to it than book one. Three stars.

This ARC was provided by Netgalley and Lyrical Press in exchange for an honest review. The same review appears on Goodreads.

A Taste of Seduction by Bronwen Evans (Disgraced Lord Series, Book 5)

Lord Hadley Fullerton and his next door neighbor Lady Evangeline Stuart are in love, even though the future will require a conservative lifestyle. Hadley, as the second son to the Duke of Claymore has a limited income based on his fledgling vineyard, while Evageline, despite her beauty, comes from a fatherless family who has lost its income due to her mother’s gambling habits, so lacks a proper dowry to attract the wealthy husband her mom envisions. She doesn’t care that they can’t afford a season since her true love is the handsome Hadley. By the time they agree to elope, they’ve already explored their passion through every act but penetration. The evening they exchange promises, Evangeline convinces Hadley to give in to their passions and consummate their relationship. Thinking they are to wed, he allows himself to be seduced by his one true love.

Five years later, Hadley is a bitter man. He avoids close relationships with women after being spurned by Evageline who absconded to Scotland with a rich titled gentleman. He even agreed to wed his brother’s best friend’s sister, a mousy plain spinster, because it would be a marriage without emotion. Yet as his thirtieth birthday and the impending nuptials near, he starts to have second thoughts. Then Evangeline, the now wealthy widow, reappears and acts as if she did nothing wrong. Her presence enrages Hadley, even while he finds himself still attracted to his former fiancĂ©. Evangeline has a different take on the whole situation, and she, too, is angry because Hadley let her go so easily and did not come and rescue her from an unwanted fate.

While the two lovebirds sort out their feelings, giving in to their mutual passions despite their differences, a series of complications arise. The mystery woman who is trying to ruin the lives of the six Libertine Scholars, strikes once again. This time the reader gets some answers, but there are still too many questions remaining to get complete closure. Kidnappings, murder, and mayhem overwhelm the close friends as one of their number disappears and they must admit that the only way to find him alive is to trust their enemy.

A Taste of Seduction by Bronwen Evans ends unfinished leaving the reader wanting more. There are surprises intermixed with exciting developments and lots of loose ends plus the fear that the next book in the Disgraced Lord series, A Night of Forever, will also end in tragedy. This Regency Romance is definitely a four star book.

A thank you to Netgalley and Loveswept for this ARC in exchange for an honest review. This review also appears on Goodreads.

A Kiss For Lady Mary by Ella Quinn (Marriage Game Series, Book Six)

Lady Mary Tolliver has a problem. She has been forced into isolation by her pesky cousin Gawain Tolliver who keeps trying to kidnap her into a compromising situation requiring marriage so he can get his hands on her $60,000 portion. Gawain is sick of being broke and, egged on by his mother, wants the money and a ticket into high society. Between the death of both parents and perpetually hiding at various relatives homes, Mary has only participated in one full season. With two years left before her twenty fifth birthday (when the funds become hers), she reluctantly agrees to spend a year at Rose Hill pretending to be Mrs Featherton. Her Grandmama Constance, the Dowager Duchess of Bridgewater assures Mary that this location is too remote and the owner of the property is no one of importance. Wrong!

When Viscount Christopher Featherton, known as Kit, hears there is an imposter posing as his wife at one of his lesser properties, he hightails it out of London in the middle of the season to evict the lying scamp, only to discover it is Mary – an attractive women who has been MIA for the past few years. A woman he wants to get to know better! Mary is horrified to discover the identity of the true owner, a man she silently refers to as Mr Perfect. Kit immediately realizes that, as a lady of quality, they have no choice but to marry to avoid a scandal effecting both their families. Mary wants to marry for love and rues her chance to be properly courted. She is not ready to accept the fate both her grandmama and Lucinda, the Dowager Countess Featherton have cooked up between them. Kit is more than happy to woo the lady, but their signals keep getting crossed. Mary wants to be kissed while Kit insists on being a respectful gentleman with the mantra “marriage before lust”. In spite of their mutual attraction, they seem to be growing farther apart. Maybe Mr Perfect is a tad too perfect and not passionate enough for marriage.

A Kiss For Lady Mary is Book 6 of the Marriage Game series. To resolve the muddle between the two potential lovebirds, a posse of married couples from former books arrive on the scene. Readers of the series will delight in discovering the comings and goings of their favorite characters. Both Phoebe and Marcus and Anna and Sebastian have toddler sons, while Sabrina and Robert are the proud parents of a recently born baby girl. Gervais and Caro didn’t waste much time after their wedding because she, too, is expecting. Then there is Wivenly who just married Eugenia. Kit feels lonely with all his happily married buddies home in the evening instead of joining him for drinks at the club. He wants what they’ve got and he wants it with Mary. His friends simply have to help him find a way to reconnect with the woman who is rapidly becoming the love of his life. Somehow the whole crew winds up in Edinburgh, Scotland to visit family and allow Mary her chance to participate in a Season.

This Regency Romance is a comedy of errors with repeated misconceptions, not only between Mary and Kit, but other characters as well. Even foolish cousin Gawain has been kept in the dark on the details of his inheritance by his parents. With misunderstandings and lies flying around, there’s some explaining to be done. It’s a lot of plot with several romances occurring before Kit and Mary are able to resolve their issues. And that’s the problem, it takes three quarters of the book for the couple to even kiss, and consummation is left for the wedding night. Inbetween there is just too much push-pull-yes-no. Despite the action, the entire premise slows down the development. Three stars.

A thank you to Netgalley and Kensington books for this ARC in exchange for an honest review.