Tag Archives: Wedding

The Next Person You Meet In Heaven by Mitch Albom

In today’s paper there is an article about a young couple who were recently married and killed in a freak roll over car accident on their way to their honeymoon. While there are many such incidents throughout the United States, what makes this one especially tragic is that these were two young people at the pinnacle of their happiness. Nothing is as sacrosanct as a bride and groom. I am silently sending my condolences to their families in this most grievous loss of life.

Perhaps that’s why Mitch Albom used a wedding to start off his newest novel, The Next Person You Meet in Heaven, a sequel to a book by a similar title published in 2003. My first reaction was “Oh, no! Not on their wedding day!” since obviously in order to have a tete a tete in heaven, you must be recently deceased. Albom takes us through that happy time and the series of events which followed sending both lovebirds to the hospital where extraordinary measures are necessary to perhaps preserve a life or two.

Then we are in heaven as the former spouse, sans honeymoon, meets the five individuals who most strongly influenced their past. Through the details revealed in their interchanges we get the backstory which led to this fateful day. Back in real time, we discover what happened to those impacted by the couple whose lives had taken such a tragic turn.

I have a copy of The Five People You Meet in Heaven sitting unread on my bookshelf (my brother gave it to me as a Christmas present, at my request, shortly after it was published). While it was obvious that this book was a sequel, with some common characters to both novels, you don’t need to read the first to understand the second. The language is simple, slowly revealing some reinterpretations of an earthly past which changes the viewpoints of everybody involved, including the reader. While one person might personally take offense at actions (or inactions) from various situations, when secrets are shared both discover that there are perfectly plausible explanations for everything. As understanding dawns, peace can be found, and what better place than heaven to achieve this “life” changing miracle. As the song says “Was blind, but now I see!”.

While Albom shares the Grace of God through his words, the story, almost a fairy tale, seems contrived. At times I want to shake the characters in frustration at their stupidity, or I wonder at the dynamics of some of the situations – “Now, really?” I also felt like Albom was being condescending, forcing us to learn a lesson which we might not want to hear. Yet, there were some interesting aspects to the story with several outlooks we might not have considered on our own. Ultimately, I anticipated the outcome and was grateful I guessed correctly since, despite the tragedy, I was able to leave with a good feeling deep in my soul. What more could you ask about a book with the word “heaven” in the title?

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


An Unexpected Wish by Eileen Richards (A Lady’s Wish,#1)

An Unexpected Wish by Eileen Richards starts out as a sweet little Regency Romance where a poverty stricken girl, Miss Anne Townsend, makes a magical wish for a handsome man to fall in love with her, then turns around and literally bumps into the good looking gentleman from the neighboring property. Nathaniel Matthews has been in London for the past five years making his fortune in investments, but has returned after a summons from his beloved grandmother, Lady Danford.

Anne and her sisters, abandoned by their ne’er do well brother, are a baronet’s orphaned daughters who are leasing the old gamekeepers cottage on the Matthew’s estate. Sisters Sophia and Juliet are undeniably the beauties in the family, but Anne’s inwardly perceived plainness is misplaced causing her to blame the attentions of both Cecil Worth, the local vicar, and Nathaniel on her secret wish on the Fairy Steps. While the vicar is abhorrent, she can’t ignore the passion which Nathaniel evokes and finds herself in one too many compromising situations which threaten to ruin her reputation. It doesn’t help that she is constantly meandering about, often unescorted.

While Anne hoped to marry Sophia off to Tony in order to stave off starvation, Nathaniel feels his little brother is not mature enough for marriage and threatens to cut off his allowance if he weds. Anne wonders how she can survive another winter without taking charity from the kindly Lady Danforth who pays her to be a companion. The situation becomes even more convoluted as her relationship with Nate escalates beyond her control and Anne finds it impossible to keep her distance despite her continued assumption that his romantic inclinations are based on fey instead of real feelings. Complications crop up when her wayward brother, Sir John, turns up desperate to find her mother’s jewels in order to stave off the creditors who threaten his well being. These said jewels are nowhere to be found, yet that fact fails to keep the debt collectors from their door.

This tale showed so much promise, but there just wasn’t enough plot to sustain a full length novel, necessitating repetitious dialogue, thought, and actions about why Anne can’t marry the man she loves which could have been overcome by expanding the character development of the siblings and townspeople. Even the climax was anticlimactic, despite the numerous plot twists, although the couple did finally consummate their relationship, instead of continuing to tease the reader with everything but the actual act.

There were so many holes in a story which showed so much potential, that I was disappointed instead of entertained. What started as a four dissolved into a three and then morphed into a two and a half.

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

Longbourn by Jo Baker

In the Regency Era, just like today, there were the haves and the have nots. Those who had, even modestly, owned at least one servant to do the menial tasks of cooking, cleaning, washing, and any other chore which required rugged labor. The have nots really had little choice as poor families tended to be large and had to kick out the older children to fend for themselves. Illness and death due to childbirth left many young ones homeless living on the streets or trying to survive in the workhouses. Female servants needed to guard their reputations since dismissal could push them into a life of prostitution.

A gentleman with an annual allowance, such as Mr Bennett from Pride and Prejudice, could afford more than one servant. Jo Baker, using clues from Jane Austin’s novel, began to construct a backstory, rewriting the tale from the viewpoint of the employees who ran the household while Mrs Bennett tried to marry off her daughters. While the main characters make various appearances, it’s the life of the cook, Mrs Hill, her elderly butler husband, and the two young servant girls, Sarah and Polly, who become the focal point of the novel Longbourn. Add in a young wanderer, James Smith, who is hired to do
odd jobs including driving the family about and serving the meals, and you have the cast of characters.

The story opens with Sarah trying to get the girls’ clothes clean on washday (Elizabeth’s petticoats always seemed to be especially muddy) when she sees James wander by and starts to wonder. She continues wondering after James becomes the family’s footman since he is especially quiet and doesn’t seem to pay any attention to her, although he teases the younger Polly. Yet she can’t help but be grateful when he picks up some of the more strenuous chores such as carting in the water and cleaning up the muck laden boots.

Life gets interesting when Bingley comes to stay at nearby Netherfield. The handsome mulatto groomsman, Ptlomey, who hand delivers the various missives back and forth between his master and Jane, provides a diversion for Sarah with his colorful descriptions of the long imagined London. Sarah must act as lady’s maid when the five girls attend the ensuing social events, aggravating the chilblains on her hands as she irons and arranges their hair and clothing.

While the story follows along with the basic plot of the original novel, Baker creates this parallel story of the servants lives providing a different view of the inhabitants of Longbourn where Mrs Bennett is treated as a more sympathetic character while Mr Bennett is portrayed as a louse and a fool. The reader gets a closer look at what life was really like at the beginning of the 19th century without automobiles, electricity, washing machines, central heating, and plumbing (someone had to empty those chamber pots and wash those filthy nappies when babies were around). The Bennett sisters, while kindly towards the housemaids (even giving Sarah and Polly a choice of one of their old dresses after their father agreed to finance some new frocks), were also self centered, thinking only of their own comforts while others did the actual work. Reflecting the mores of the era, Baker does an excellent job of opening our eyes to how the other half lived.

While I would not say that the author has the same word smithing talent as Jane Austin, Baker does a credible job creating an enjoyable read. This is one of many published “adaptations” of the Bennett saga and is definitely worth a look. Between three and a half and four stars.

Wedding Night With the Earl by Amelia Grey (The Heirs’ Club of Scoundrels Trilogy, Book 3)

I was looking forward to reading the final installment of Amelia Grey’s The Heirs’ Club of Scoundrels Trilogy, unfortunately Wedding Night With the Earl fell far short of my expectations. While the main characters showed promise, there simply wasn’t enough of a plot to carry an entire book. This should have been a Regency Novella or perhaps a simple romantic Short Story.

Adam Greyhawke has unexpectedly come into an inheritance and a title along with finding himself shackled with his five year old orphaned heir, Dillon. Due to his new responsibilities, Adam must return to London after a two year absence where he meets up with his best friends, Bray and Harrison. Both childhood buddies have been supportive of his overwhelming grief and self imposed exile after the horrific loss of his wife Annie who died in childbirth. Adam has vowed never to remarry so as not to repeat the tragic loss of another spouse and babe. Yet on his first night back in society he discovers the beauteous Katheryn Wright who bewitches him by repeatedly refusing to partner him in a dance. Kathryn has suffered her own loss due to a tragic carriage accident which resulted in the death of her parents and siblings, leaving her slightly crippled at the age of seven. Living with her father’s siblings who coddle her due to her infirmity, her uncle, the Duke of Quillsbury, insists that she choose a husband from amongst her numerous suitors by the end of her current third season. While she has several gentlemen on her short list of possible future mates, it is the ineligible Earl of Greyshawke who has stolen her heart. He boldly gives Kathryn her first kiss (one full of passion, not a gentle peck) bringing to the surface the ardent feelings which have so far been absent in her life. Despite Adam’s determination to stay away from the vixen who has stirred his blood with her willingness to comply with each of his scandalous actions mirrored by her own innate desires, the two are thrown together on numerous occasions where they unable to keep their amorous tendencies at bay. Only through a strong will is Adam able to avert the consummation of their relationship. In Kathryn he sees an intelligent, independent woman who, with the proper encouragement, should be able to throw away her cane and even learn to dance. In order to find true love, both must be willing to take a leap of faith and overcome the millstones from their past.

A plus was the addition of friends Bray and Garrison whose romances were told in Books One and Two of the series. Both wives, Louisa and Angelina, are expecting so they were not involved in the social scenes. References were also made to the Prim siblings who were prominent in the first book, A Duke in My Bed and the novella, The Duke and Miss Christmas. I would have liked to have seen some of these lively characters take a more active role, perhaps spicing up some of the gaps in this story. Instead the book is full of repetitive reflections replacing the potentially exciting activity which would have taken the storyline to the next level rather than leaving us with a staid plot. Even the sexual encounters became tedious.

With better character development (especially of the secondary characters), less introspection, and some much needed action, this story would have been a more interesting read. The title is also misleading as the Wedding Night is a relatively brief interlude which doesn’t occur until almost the end of the book. Two and a half stars. This review also appears on Goodreads.

I received an ARC of this book from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

A Touch of Passion by Bronwen Evans (Disgraced Lord Series, Book 3)

Lord Grayson Devlin, now Viscount Blackwood, became a member of the Flagstaff family when his parents and sister were killed in a carriage crash. Instead of thinking of him as one of her brothers, Lady Portia has been in love with Greyson since her coming out ball when she was sixteen years old. There was a moment when he seemed to return her feelings, but then war beckoned and off he went with her brother Robert and close pal Christian Trent, to fight the French. After the Battle of Waterloo, Greyson returned a different man. He had been unable to save Robert, his best friend, who was now dead or Christian who suffered scars from devastating burns. Full of self reproach, he vowed to never put his heart on the line again. It was just too painful to lose the ones he loved especially when it seemed that everyone he truly cared about died, leaving him behind to grieve.

The independent, unconventional Lady Portia vowed to marry no one but Greyson and only if he unconditionally returned her feelings. Yet, at the age of twenty four, she still longed to experience the passion she knew would ignite between them if only he would return her favors, so when she received a missive from Greyson to meet her at the scandalous Vauxville Gardens, she could not resist the chance of a romantic rendezvous. Unfortunately, it was not Greyson, but a kidnapper paid to bring her to a sultan’s harem in Egypt. Greyson, who had promised Robert to watch over his little sister, immediately set off to rescue Lady Portia before she came to harm. Despite attempts to dispel the rumor mill with tales of illness, the word was out that the Viscount was involved with her disappearance. In order to salvage both their reputations, a wedding was mandatory, but Portia refused to have any part of nuptials which didn’t include love and respect as a part of the marriage vows, preferring her current spinsterhood despite the impending scandal.

And thus the tug of war between the two love birds begins, with a push pull, yes no, do I don’t I, maybe yet, I want you but, sort of relationship. Of the first three books in the Disgraced Lord Series, A Touch of Passion is the most complete, even if it is a tad too long, dragging near the end. While Bronwen Evans has a tendency to repeat the details too many times, first with thoughts, then with explanations, then with further explanations, until the reader thinks “enough already”, at least this tale had quite a bit of action in the plot. This volume expounds upon the friendship between the Libertine Scholars and explores the loving relationships of the two already married couples and their families. Rounding out the story provides some humorous moments, especially when jealousy rears its ugly head. Headway is also made in discovering the identity of the mystery woman bent on destroying the reputations of the six comrades, threatening their lives as well as those close to them. The search for true love by the women and the avoidance of love by the men seems to be a theme which is interwoven in all the tales. Unfortunately, their ideals of love are simplistic and kind of sappy, despite the steamy sex scenes.

Some of the sexual situations, such as in the harem, are unusual, bordering on erotica. Grayson’s rescue of Portia from Alexandria defies logic, but sets an adventurous tone which reflects the heroine’s high spirited nature. Don’t look for accuracy in the Regency details, but instead focus on the overarching mystery as the glue which holds the series together. Three stars.

Thank you to Netgalley and Loveswept for this ARC in exchange for an honest review.

A Promise of More by Bronwen Evans (The Disgraced Lord Series, Book 2)

As a child, Lord Sebastian Hawkestone, Marquis of Coldstone witnessed both his mother and father try to outdo each other’s infidelities in retaliation for perceived hurts, supposedly as a response to the heartache from their all-consuming love. After his parents’ death, Sebastian was left the guardian of his two younger sisters, Marisa and Helen, raised by their capable Aunt Alison. As a defense mechanism, the Marquis pledged to never get personally involved with any woman, even refusing to take a mistress. Despite his repulsion of love, Sebastian still was obligated to get married and start a family, so when Lady Beatrice Hennessey confronted him about the damage he had done to her family after the dueling death of her brother, Douglas Hennessey, the Baron of Larkwell, he decided that she was an adequate choice. Her plain looks wouldn’t tempt him, and after she was with child he could leave her at his country estate and continue his rakish ways. Plus marriage would give him the respectability necessary to launch his sisters into society.

Unfortunately, Sebastian’s plans fall by the wayside when the newly weds discover there was a plot to discredit and destroy the Libertine Scholars and that Doogie’s death was really a murder used to besmirch Lord Coldstone’s good name. Beatrice was horrified for guilting the Marquis into marriage, but he felt she was just another victim in this evil plot of revenge. Together they try to discover what really happened that fateful day and the more they work as a team, the more Sebastian recognizes her outward beauty and inner integrity. What started as a marriage of convenience becomes much more than he had planned. She, too, feels an attraction to her handsome husband who tenderly teaches her the intricacies of lovemaking and awakens her passionate side. Who knew that Henpecked Hennessy would have such a depth of character.

In A Promise of More (Book Two in The Disgraced Lord Series) by Bronwen Evans, we once again meet the six comrades of the Libertine Scholars (minus one who is off in Egypt rescuing the kidnapped daughter he has pledged to protect, the subject of Book Three, A Touch of Passion). On the sidelines is Christian Trent, Earl of Markham and his wife Sabrina whose story is found in A Kiss of Lies, (Book One). Both are in hiding to prevent the enemy from discovering they are still alive after an almost successful murder attempt. Some additional clues concerning the overarching mystery binding the series together are revealed.

While I was looking forward to reading Sebastian’s story since he was so likeable in the previous book, I was disappointed by his behaviors towards Beatrice. Instead of being understanding, he treats her with disdain and threats any time she crosses him or behaves contrary to his wishes. He would often abandon her in search of someone else, behaving like a bastard, even though he eventually returns home realizing it is his wife he truly desires. Beatrice wasn’t a blameless spouse as she kept a big part of her life a secret, although I couldn’t blame her for not wanting to share her news with such an inconsistent husband. Neither inspired the trust which they both sought.

A major problem, as in the first book, was the repetition of thoughts and even actions as each of the protagonists continue their bad behaviors and agonize over their situations including a wife searching for true love and a husband avoiding any semblance of emotional commitment, doing his best to ignore his wedding vows. Sebastian could see the love sick look in his wife’s eyes, a condition which usually sent him running to the next lover. Beatrice wanted to seduce Sebastian into loving her, but often earned her reputation as “Henpecked” Hennessey by berating him. He in turn got angry and viciously lashed out, hurting them both. This made it difficult to root for the couple. The sex, however, was steamy. Sebastian certainly earned his reputation as an accomplished lover. The villains, Lord Dunmire and Lady Christina, were truly evil, with actions totally motivated by self gratification, to the point of insanity.

While I liked Book Two in the Disgraced Lord Series better than the initial book, the promise shown in the first half was marred by aspects which dragged, especially the repetitive introspective flow of thoughts which resulted in a sappy love story instead of a romance. With some more even pacing and editing, this would have been a tighter, more enjoyable read. Once again, a little research into the terminology and life style of the Regency Period would have been appreciated.

Three stars.

Good Earl Gone Bad (Lords of Anarchy Series, #2) by Manda Collins

In the first book of The Lords of Anarchy Series, A Good Rake Is Hard to Find by Manda Collins, Miss Leona Craven is determined to discover who is behind the death of her brother Jonathan. The Lords of Anarchy, a riding club which Lord Craven had recently joined, figures prominently in the story. Minor characters Lady Hermione Upperton and Jasper Fawley, the Earl of Mainwaring, are introduced and their romance is the center of the second book in the series, Good Earl Gone Bad.

Hermione is an excellent whip and is ecstatic when she gains acceptance as the first woman member of The Lords of Anarchy. Jasper has a traditional view of females and in general disapproves of her unconventional actions, but he can’t help but admire Hermione’s style and pluck behind the reins. Unfortunately, he is a witness to her father’s losing streak at cards where Lord Upperton not only risks his daughter’s inheritance, but also gambles away her prized matching set of grays. The winner comes to claim his horses right before her debut at the riding club. Lord Mainwaring is supportive but realistic and points out that even though the pair was purchased with Hermione’s own funds, her father is ultimately the rightful owner. After witnessing this devastating loss, Jasper realizes that Lord Upperton is not above using Hermonie’s marriage as leverage for his gambling habit. The Earl has been attracted to Hermione since the day they met and after deciding she would be good marriage material, he engages in a “friendly” hand of cards using his counting talent to win Lady Upperton’s hand. In an era where a father could legally marry off his daughters without their consent, Hermione has no choice but to acquiesce to her father’s IOU. It helps that she, too, is attracted to Lord Mainwaring. He gives her a taste of the wedding night and her anger over the situation dissipates. Together, the two begin to learn more about each other as they solve the mystery behind some horse thefts and murders which have been plaguing the area. Both Jasper and Hermoine’s friends assist in the search for answers despite the dangers they encounter as they move closer to the truth.

While the premise promised an entertaining Regency Romance, the writing style just didn’t deliver. The plot needed more action, especially the obvious resolution of the mystery which was told through a discussion in an Epilogue instead of being acted out in the plot. In addition, the dialogue tended to be mundane which lead to characters who were less than compelling. The minor characters could also have been fleshed out a bit more, such as Lord Mainwaring’s disapproving mother. While I liked both Hermione and Jasper and their love scenes together were satisfying, there was a whole lot more potential which should have been explored. Some aspects of the story could have easily been cut, while others should have been expanded. A pity!

And who was the good Earl who went bad – was it the callous addicted-to-gambling father or one of the villains? A better title might have been – The Earl Who Was Good at Cards.

The next book in the series, Good Dukes Wear Black, will feature the secondary characters from the first two novels, Piers Hamilton, the Duke of Trent, who has decided to become the newest President of the seemingly cursed Lords of Anarchy and Miss Ophelia Dauntry, an inquisitive writer for the Ladies Gazette.

I debated whether to give a rating of 2 1/2 or 3 stars and settled on the latter score – but it is a low three.