2017 Book #44 – The Simplicity of Cider by Amy E. Reichert

61EYgKWCiDLTitle: The Simplicity of Cider
Author: Amy E. Reichert
Date finished: 5/12/17
Genre: Fiction, women’s fiction
Publisher: Gallery Books
Publication Date: May 16, 2017
Pages in book: 336
Stand alone or series: Stand alone
Where I got the book from: NetGalley NOTE: I received this book for free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This in no way affected my opinion of the book, or the content of my review.

Blurb from the cover:

Fall in love with The Simplicity of Cider, the charming new novel about a prickly but gifted cider-maker whose quiet life is interrupted by the arrival of a handsome man and his young son at her family’s careworn orchard by the author of The Coincidence of Coconut Cake and Luck, Love & Lemon Pie.
Focused and unassuming fifth generation cider-maker Sanna Lund has one desire: to live a simple, quiet life on her family’s apple orchard in Door County, Wisconsin. Although her business is struggling, Sanna remains fiercely devoted to the orchard, despite her brother’s attempts to convince their aging father to sell the land.
Single dad Isaac Banks has spent years trying to shield his son Sebastian from his troubled mother. Fleeing heartbreak at home, Isaac packed up their lives and the two headed out on an adventure, driving across the country. Chance—or fate—led them straight to Sanna’s orchard.
Isaac’s helping hands are much appreciated at the apple farm, even more when Sanna’s father is injured in an accident. As Sanna’s formerly simple life becomes increasingly complicated, she finds solace in unexpected places—friendship with young Sebastian and something more deliciously complex with Isaac—until an outside threat infiltrates the farm.
From the warm and funny Amy E. Reichert, The Simplicity of Cider is a charming love story with a touch of magic, perfect for fans of Sarah Addison Allen and Gayle Forman.

My rating:  4.5 stars out of a scale of 5

My review: I was provided a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest and fair review. This book tells the story of Sanna Lund, who lives with her father at their family orchard. The orchard has been their family’s land for generations, with their normally large family all living together in the large farm house. It’s narrowed down to just Sanna and her father, Einars, now though and they rattle around the house and the land, trying to keep their orchard afloat. Sanna has a talent for making cider and her father decided to invest in a great renovation of their barn to install more cider machinery. Unfortunately neither of them know how to get the word out though so the orchard is now pretty deep in debt. Despite that, when father and son Isaac and Sebastian roll into town Einars decides to hire them to help out. Isaac feels an immediate attraction to Sanna, but his life is complicated enough with what he’s running from. With all their complications, is there really any chance for them to have a happy ending?
Overall I really just loved this book. There was just a touch of magic in the book and it really made it come alive for me. I loved Sanna’s character, she was strong and proud but also so loving and generous. And the cidery and orchard added such an interesting aspect to the story. The author really did such a wonderful job too of weaving this romantic and touching love story, Sanna and Isaac’s story really reached into my chest and just squeezed my heart tight. And I loved the ending and how creatively the author made a happy ending not only for Sanna but also for so many of the other characters in the story as well. This was such a great read and I would really recommend it!

The bottom line: I just loved this book, this was a beautifully woven love story with just a touch of magic to it. This one is a must read for the summer, I would definitely recommend!

Link to author website

Click on the cover to go to the book’s Amazon page

2017 Book #43 – The Perfect Stranger by Megan Miranda

51MUPopm41LTitle: The Perfect Stranger
Author: Megan Miranda
Date finished: 5/10/17
Genre: Fiction, suspense
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Publication Date: April 11, 2017
Pages in book: 353
Stand alone or series: Stand alone
Where I got the book from: NetGalley NOTE: I received this book for free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This in no way affected my opinion of the book, or the content of my review.

Blurb from the cover:

Confronted by a restraining order and the threat of a lawsuit, failed journalist Leah Stevens needs to get out of Boston when she runs into an old friend, Emmy Grey, who has just left a troubled relationship. Emmy proposes they move to rural Pennsylvania, where Leah can get a teaching position and both women can start again. But their new start is threatened when a woman with an eerie resemblance to Leah is assaulted by the lake, and Emmy disappears days later.
Determined to find Emmy, Leah cooperates with Kyle Donovan, a handsome young police officer on the case. As they investigate her friend’s life for clues, Leah begins to wonder: did she ever really know Emmy at all? With no friends, family, or a digital footprint, the police begin to suspect that there is no Emmy Grey. Soon Leah’s credibility is at stake, and she is forced to revisit her past: the article that ruined her career. To save herself, Leah must uncover the truth about Emmy Grey—and along the way, confront her old demons, find out who she can really trust, and clear her own name.
Everyone in this rural Pennsylvanian town has something to hide—including Leah herself. How do you uncover the truth when you are busy hiding your own?

My rating:  4.75 stars out of a scale of 5

My review: I was provided a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest and fair review. This book tells the story of Leah Stevens, a journalist who has recently relocated from Boston to rural western Pennsylvania to escape the mess she’s made of her life. Starting over with a teaching position, she hopes to leave her failure behind her. Leah moves in with a friend that she’s recently reconnected with, Emmy. She and Emmy lived together for a few months right after Leah graduated from college, when she became a new person and began to form the structure of her adult life. After not seeing Emmy for eight years, she suddenly reappears just when Leah seemingly needs her most. But then a dead body is found by the lake and this small rural town in western Pennsylvania starts to feel a little less safe. And as the bodies, and the secrets, start piling up, with Emmy missing and Leah left to connect the dots, the truth unravels and Leah learns that the danger really is everywhere.
AHH Overall, my gosh, I loved this book. I was addicted, on the edge of my seat, didn’t want to put it down. I found myself continually looking around trying to “find the danger” when I wasn’t reading. Leah as a character was great. She’s on the edge of losing it and she gets so deep into this that the reader even starts to question if Emmy is real or not. I loved the mind-games that this book plays with the reader, the danger really is everywhere and Leah is in much more trouble than she could have ever imagined. The way that the author presents the different relationships within this book I found to be really interesting too. Leah realizes later on in the book and its true but relationships are all about perspective. Your specific perspective of that person and what they present to your relationship could only be one facet of them as a person and of their lives, which I found to be a thought-provoking aspect to this story. This was a great and interesting book with great plot twists and a constant threat of danger. This is going to be a must read for this summer, I would definitely recommend!

The bottom line: I loved this book, I was on the edge of my seat and I just loved the twists and turns in the plot. This one is a must read for the summer, I would definitely recommend!

Link to author website

Click on the cover to go to the book’s Amazon page

2017 Book #42 – Never Trust a Pirate by Valerie Bowman

51HzyMz0VaL._SY346_Title: Never Trust a Pirate
Author: Valerie Bowman
Date finished: 5/8/17
Genre: Historical romance
Publisher: St. Martin’s Paperbacks
Publication Date: May 2, 2017
Pages in book: 321
Stand alone or series: #7 in the Playful Brides series
Where I got the book from: NetGalley NOTE: I received this book for free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This in no way affected my opinion of the book, or the content of my review.

Blurb from the cover:

The rules of engagement were never so scandalous. . .
A rumored pirate and the scurrilous black sheep of his well-to- do family, Cade Cavendish relishes his world of rebellion, deception, and seduction. Nothing and no one can hold him to be the duty-bound, honorable man he is expected to be. But when an unexpected run-in at his twin brother’s estate with a ravishing, raven-haired maid leads her to believe he’s actually a viscount, Cade’s renegade life is thrown wildly off-kilter. And even though a case of mistaken identity can be quickly set to rights, matters of the heart are quite different…
Miss Danielle LaCrosse is startled to learn that the handsome gentleman who radiates sin and has the devil in his eyes is not her employer the Viscount, but rather his infamous brother. A former heiress, orphaned and left penniless, Danielle has more than a few secrets of her own. Cade may be skilled at coaxing even the most hidden desires out of Danielle but can he earn her trust—and win her heart—as they embark on an adventure to confront a dangerous enemy from both of their pasts . . . and uncover the identity of the so-called Black Fox along the way?

My rating:  3.75 stars out of a scale of 5

My review: I was provided a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest and fair review. I also participated in the Blog Tour for this book, you can see the post here.  This book tells the story of Danielle LaCrosse, a lady spy assigned to watch over Cade Cavendish, brother to Rafe from a previous book. Danielle is a pirate but is adaptable and therefore takes a post as a lady’s maid to Cade’s sister-in-law, Daphne. Cade is a bit of a mystery and Danielle doesn’t learn much from watching him other than he’s a first class rake. Danielle is on a mission to avenge her murdered father, and so when her boss informs her that the man she’s been hunting is within her reach, she leaves her post thinking never to see Cade again. Little does she know that fate, and her boss, have more in store for her.
Overall I liked this book. It was an easy and quick read with adventure and romance all in one. I liked how mysterious Cade stayed through the first half of the book, the reader really starts to wonder if he’s up to no good. I also liked how the setting changed halfway through the story, I think that added a great hook mid way through the book when it might have gotten dry otherwise. The supporting characters, including Mary and the housekeeper among others, are all really entertaining and I loved the little make-shift family that Danielle had made for herself within the household. The book had a great dramatic ending, I liked the pace of the story and I was interested throughout. I would recommend this one!

The bottom line: I liked this book, it was a sweet story and a quick, light read. I would recommend it!

Link to author website

Click on the cover to go to the book’s Amazon page

2017 Book #41 – The Bad Luck Bride by Janna MacGregor

51Fo7+8vc8L._SY346_Title: The Bad Luck Bride
Author: Janna MacGregor
Date finished: 5/6/17
Genre: Historical romance
Publisher: St. Martin’s Paperbacks
Publication Date: May 2, 2017
Pages in book: 349
Stand alone or series: #1 in the Cavensham Heiresses series
Where I got the book from: NetGalley NOTE: I received this book for free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This in no way affected my opinion of the book, or the content of my review.

Blurb from the cover:

No one is left breathless at the imperious pronouncement of her engagement to Lord Pembrooke more than Claire. She hardly knows the dangerously outrageous man! But after three engagements gone awry and a fourth going up in glorious flames, she isn’t in a position to refuse…Alexander requires the hand of his enemy’s fiancée in marriage in order to complete his plans for revenge. It’s his good fortune that the “cursed” woman is desperate. However, what begins as a sham turns into something scandalously deeper…

My rating:  3.25 stars out of a scale of 5

My review: I was provided a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest and fair review. I also participated in the Blog Tour for this book, you can see the post here. This book tells the story of Alex and Claire, who become Lord and Lady Pembrooke. Alex is looking for revenge against a friend who betrayed him, and an unfortunate victim in his plot is Lady Claire. In order to keep her from being scorned by society, he marries her by the end of the week. Fortunately for him, Alex and Claire seem to be a good match. Claire comes with her own set of issues too. Her parents died tragically when she was young and its left her deeply traumatized even after all these years.
Overall I liked this book. I thought it was a nice story and I liked the characters ok. I wasn’t crazy about the hero in the book, I just felt like he was kind of robotic and detached from the story. I couldn’t connect with him, though towards the end he did seem a little more romantic. I liked Claire’s family a lot, and to be honest I think some of my favorite characters in the book were the servants. Claire and Alex have a lot of ups and downs in their marriage but I liked that they were able to work things out and listen to each other. This was a sweet story with a romantic ending and I’d recommend it.

The bottom line: I liked this book, it was a sweet story. There were some pieces of the story that I didn’t love and the hero really didn’t appeal to me but I still liked this book. I would recommend giving it a try!

Link to author website

Click on the cover to go to the book’s Amazon page

Never Trust a Pirate BLOG TOUR!!

Never-Trust-a-Pirate-Blog-Banner

Never Trust a Pirate was released TODAY (Tuesday, May 2nd) and to celebrate I am participating in a Blog Tour for the book! I haven’t had a chance to finish my ARC of the book yet, I should be done with it later this week though so check back for my review!! See below for more information about the book, an excerpt, a short author bio, and author Q&A! 

SUMMARY

The rules of engagement were never so scandalous. . .
A rumored pirate and the scurrilous black sheep of his well-to- do family, Cade Cavendish relishes his world of rebellion, deception, and seduction. Nothing and no one can hold him to be the duty-bound, honorable man he is expected to be. But when an unexpected run-in at his twin brother’s estate with a ravishing, raven-haired maid leads her to believe he’s actually a viscount, Cade’s renegade life is thrown wildly off-kilter. And even though a case of mistaken identity can be quickly set to rights, matters of the heart are quite different…
Miss Danielle LaCrosse is startled to learn that the handsome gentleman who radiates sin and has the devil in his eyes is not her employer the Viscount, but rather his infamous brother. A former heiress, orphaned and left penniless, Danielle has more than a few secrets of her own. Cade may be skilled at coaxing even the most hidden desires out of Danielle but can he earn her trust—and win her heart—as they embark on an adventure to confront a dangerous enemy from both of their pasts . . . and uncover the identity of the so-called Black Fox along the way?

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Valerie BowmanValerie Bowman grew up in Illinois with six sisters (she’s number seven) and a huge supply of historical romance novels. After a cold and snowy stint earning a degree in English with a minor in history at Smith College, she moved to Florida the first chance she got. Valerie now lives in Jacksonville with her family including her mini-schnauzer, Huckleberry. When she’s not writing, she keeps busy reading, traveling, or vacillating between watching crazy reality TV and PBS. She is the author of the Secret Brides series, starting with Secrets of a Wedding Night, Secrets of a Runaway Bride, and Secrets of a Scandalous Marriage.

AUTHOR Q&A

Some of the questions below were from other bloggers, the publisher had put them all together for us so I figured I would share all the authors answers with you readers!

  1. What is your favorite scene in Never Trust a Pirate? I truly do love the whole book but I think everything that happens after they get on the ship is especially fun. The book is sort of pre-ship and post-ship.
  2. What’s your favorite underappreciated romance novel?
    One of my favorite romances ever is Dark Future by KC Klein. It’s a futuristic scifi romance, which is not normally something I gravitate toward (I like to read historical romance!) but I picked up KC’s book and couldn’t put it down. It’s fantastic. She also has me reading contemporary cowboy stories.
  3. Are you methodical in your writing, certain hours of the day, certain rituals you may perform before you sit down? Or are you one of those writers who binge write when the mood is upon you? I’m a binge writer, but it’s not about the mood striking so much as it’s about having more time to write on the weekend because I’m not at my day job.
  4. Are there particular tropes you are fond of using? My favorite trope is probably reunited lovers or old friends who fall in love. I love the brother’s best friend trope, too. I’ve used all of those and am currently writing a story where a married couple (who haven’t seen each other in ten years) are forced to work together again. Of course hijinx (and romance) will ensue!
  5. What lead you to writing historical romances? My love of reading them. I read them a lot as a teenager. They made me so happy.
  6. How would you describe Never Trust a Pirate using only three words? Racy Regency Romp. That’s how I describe all of my books, actually.
  7. What is your advice for other writers? Write! It’s simple. I see a lot of would-be writers taking classes and reading books about writing but the best thing to do is just write, write, write. Worry about the mechanics later. You do need to study craft and learn the business but you’ve got nothing to improve if you’re not actually writing.
  8. Do you, or your publisher decide on your beautiful covers? If your publisher, do you have any input? My publisher makes the covers for the books and I love them. They send them to me for input but it’s usually quite minimal. They are gorgeous! I’m very lucky.
  9. Why this setting and why pirates? Inquiring minds want to you, or me anyway. I unabashedly love pirates! I love to read stories about them and when I was a kid I wanted to be one. Of course I get horribly seasick and am about the least adventurous person you’d ever meet. Swashbuckling would stress me out. I guess that’s why I have to write about it instead.
  10. What do you do to relax, after a day of writing? And how, do you set your writing day in order to achieve your goal of a certain number of pages? My favorite way to relax is to take a nap. I should have been born in a country that embraces the concept of siesta. That’s where I belong. Ha! I don’t count pages so much as I count words. So if I have to get twenty thousand words (about ¼ of a novel) written in a weekend, I would need to write about 6,600 Friday night, 13,000 on Saturday, and 6,600 on Sunday. I have a day job so weekends are very important to me as far as hitting my word count goals.
  11. Another inquiring minds want to you, approximately, how long does it take you to write a full length novel?  How many books can you write in a year? It takes me about two months to actually write the novel (working mostly nights and weekends around my full-time job) but it takes months to plot and think about the novel which is why I only write two novels per year.
  12. Which Hollywood stars would you like to see as the main characters in NEVER TRUST A PIRATE? I actually have a Pinterest board set up with my idea of who all the main characters in the Playful Brides series look like. For Cade Cavendish and Danielle LaCrosse it’s Chris Pine and Zooey Deschanel. You can find the board at: https://www.pinterest.com/valeriegbowman/playfulbrides/.
  13. Do you write fulltime? No and I actually have a theory that if I did write full-time I would get much less writing done. I think having to be so disciplined about my writing time forces me to focus. At least that’s what I tell myself.
  14. Twitter or Facebook? Both!
  15. Favorite TV show? Of all time? Gilmore Girls. As for what’s on today, I love Homicide Hunter: Lt Joe Kenda. I’m a sucker for true crime.
  16. Who is your ultimate Book Boyfriend? My book boyfriend is Jason Fielding from Judith McNaught’s Once and Always. Talk about the perfect tortured hero!
  17. What are you reading right now or what’s on your TBR? I’m currently reading Kerrigan Byrne’s, The Duke, and I can’t wait to dive into Anna Bennett’s, I Dared the Duke!
  18. 2017 Movie you’re most looking forward to? I just saw a trailer for Dunkirk and I got goosebumps! I can’t wait. I love WWII-era history almost as much as the Regency.
  19. Give us the “elevator pitch” for your new book. I call Never Trust a Pirate: The Scarlet Pimpernel meets Dirty Rotten Scoundrels in Regency England.
  20. Series or stand alone?  If series do you already have a set number of books that you plan to write? When I began to write the Playful Brides series, I planned three books. I’m happy to say it’s going to be eleven altogether, plus a novella. Plans change!
  21. If you could change anything in your past, what would it be and why? And how do you think it has affected your writing. – From Judy at Long and Short Reviews, she says hi! Was in a writing group in FL that you spoke at! I would love to go back to my twenty-two year old self and tell her to start writing romance novels right away. Alas, I have no time machine. Frankly, I don’t think my twenty-two year old self had the confidence or the patience to do it. I think life unfolds the way it’s meant to in due time. (Hi Judy!)
  22. What literary pilgrimages have you gone on? I’ve been to Bath and seen the Jane Austen museum there. Does that count?
  23. What are your future project(s)? Right now, I’m editing book 8 in the Playful Brides series. It’s called The Right Kind of Rogue and comes out on Halloween. I’m also writing book 9 of the Playful Brides series. And I’m always plotting future books in my head. In this case I’ve already got a lot of ideas for how I’m going to end the series with book #11 (Delilah and Thomas’s book) in Spring 2019.
  24. For novices who haven’t read a novel of yours what is it that they will find unique in your work? I hope they will find a book that doesn’t take itself too seriously and is filled with humor and heart. Above all, I just want my stories to entertain. I’m not here to give anyone a history lesson. I just want readers to smile and sigh.
  25. Do you find that you base any of your characters on people in your life? Have you gotten any inspiration for scenes in your novel from things that have happened to you in real life? The entire Playful Brides series was conceived based on my friend’s terrible boyfriend. She wouldn’t break up with him and I kept telling her to let me call him and break up with him for her (I was kidding, sorta). On a drive home from dinner with her one night, after she’d filled my ear yet again with a bunch of stories of the awful things he’d done (forgot her birthday, asked her to pay his cell phone bill), I started thinking how funny it would be if there was a service that you could call to break-up with your boyfriend for you. The opposite of Cyrano de Bergerac. I decided that would be great story and immediately began to think about how I could set it in the Regency. That was the idea for The Unexpected Duchess, the first story in the series.
  26. Are there any books or authors that have really influenced you and made you want to write? What about those authors inspired or influenced you? Lisa Kleypas was a huge influence on me. I was snowed in at an airport in 2007 and picked up Scandal in Spring. Many hours later (I couldn’t put the book down) I considered giving romance writing a try. She is a brilliant writer and a lovely person both inside and out.
  27. Have you read anything lately that you loved? Julie Anne Long’s The Legend of Lyon Redmond was sheer perfection if you ask me.
  28. Do you usually work off of an outline while writing or do you tend to just start writing and see where the story takes you? I don’t have an outline per se, but I sketch out a few sentences for each chapter in my Word .doc so I know where the story is going. I’ve been working lately on making my stories more character driven so I may change this up a bit.
  29. What other books or movies or music influenced this novel? As with all of the stories in my Playful Brides series, Never Trust a Pirate was inspired by a play. In this case it’s The Scarlet Pimpernel. I loved the concept of a character with dual identities.
  30. What advice do you have for pair wanting to get into the writing field? If you want to write romance, join Romance Writers of America (RWA.org). Hands down it was the best thing I did to learn how to write a romance novel. Leslie Wainger’s book, Writing a Romance Novel for Dummies, is also fantastic.

EXCERPT

51HzyMz0VaL._SY346_CHAPTER ONE

London Harbor, July 1817

Only three steps. Only three steps separated him from the map. It was there, laying on the rickety wooden table in the captain’s stateroom aboard a ship aptly named Le Secret Francais. The only sound in the cramped space was his own breathing. Sweat beaded on his brow. He’d come this far. Braved the murky, cold water, swam out to the ship moored at the London docks. Climbed aboard silent as a wraith, dressed all in black. Wrung out his clothing to keep it from dripping so there wouldn’t be a trail. Managed to steal into the captain’s quarters as the man slept, and now, now only three steps remained between him and the priceless map.

One water droplet fell to the wooden plank floor like a hammer against steel. The sound of his breath echoed to a crescendo. The blood pounding in his head became a distracting whirring noise.

One step forward. The ball of his foot ground onto the plank. Stealth and silence. Always. The calling cards of the best thief in London.

The captain stirred slightly in his bunk and began to snore.

He froze. One leather-clad foot arrested on the wooden plank. A pistol rested on two nails directly above the captain’s bunk. If the man awoke, he might shoot first at any noise. The captain well knew the value of the treasure he carried.

He counted to ten. Once. Twice. He had long since mastered the art of keeping footing on a ship. He waited until his heartbeats became steady again before taking the next step. A slight creak in the wood floor. A hint of movement from the captain. Another endless wait. Impatience was a roiling knot inside his belly.

Out of the shadows now, he stood only one step away from the table bolted to the floor. The moon shone through the window above the captain’s bed, shedding light on the man’s balding head. The map lay spread out, anchored by pins in the four corners. He would have to remove those pins. Ripping the paper would be too noisy.

Another interminable wait as the captain turned away from him in his sleep. His snores subsided.

He glanced over at the bunk. The pistol shone in the moonlight. One hard swallow. He never carried a pistol. Too loud. Pistols brought the crew, the wharf police, and anyone else interested in such activity. The only weapon he carried was a knife, tucked in the back of his breeches. A weapon of stealth.

Another count to ten before taking the final step. There was no time for an in-depth study of the map now, but a quick glance revealed the destination. The island of St. Helena, off the western coast of Africa, circled in bold scrawl. The map of the route planned for Bonaparte’s next escape. That bastard in the bed had been planning it.

All ten fingers itched to snatch the paper and run, but he forced himself to take a deep, silent breath. Carefully, he dislodged the first pin at the top right corner. It popped out easily. The top of the map rolled toward the center, making a slight flapping sound. Breath held, he glanced toward the captain again. No movement.

He stuck the pin back into the table to keep it from rolling, then his hand darted to the next pin at the bottom right corner. It also popped out easily. He quickly stuck it back into the wood. With two sides free, he carefully rolled the map toward the center. Reaching up to the top, he grasped the third pin. No movement. It was lodged deeply into the wood. Must pull harder. With one black-gloved hand, he clasped the pin between a thumb and two fingers, pulling upward with as much strength as he dared. His own breath in his ear was the only sound … that and the water lapping at the sides of the ship.

The pin finally gave way. He pressed a hand to the top of the map, to keep the freed top left corner from curling and making a noise. His chest and torso flattened against the map and the table, he pressed the third pin back into the wood.

Click. An unmistakable sound. One he had heard too often before. Another hard swallow. Damn it. He’d been so preoccupied with keeping quiet, he hadn’t realized the captain’s snores had subsided.

Half-splayed across the table, he contemplated his options. The door was ten paces to the left, the open window five paces to the right. Would he fit through the window? It’d be a hell of a time to learn the answer was no.

“Step away from zee map, if you don’t want a bullet through your back.” The captain’s voice was harsh and angry.

He slowly rose from his position hunched over the map, arms braced upright at right angles near his head to show the captain he had no weapon. “Ye wouldn’t shoot an unarmed man, now would ye, Cap’n?”

“I’d shoot a thief without thinking twice,” the captain replied with a sneer, nearly spitting the word thief.

He glanced down at the map. Studying it in case he was forced to leave without it. He had been in worse situations, more times than he could count. He considered the knife in the back of his breeches hidden beneath his shirt. It would be simple, easy and quick to snake it out and whip it into the bastard’s throat. But a voice in his head reminded him … justice must be served in proper course.

“Turn around,” the captain ordered. “Slowly.”

“Why?” he asked, trying to garner some precious time.

“Because I want to see zee face of zee man who would steal my secrets.”

He began his turn. Slowly. So slowly and so quietly that he could have sworn he heard a drop of sweat from his forehead hit the wooden plank of the floor. He finally stood facing the older man.

Êtes-vous le Renard Noir?” the captain asked.

Pourquoi veux tu savoir?”

Visible in the light of the moon, the captain narrowed his eyes. “Ah, perfect French? Why do I find zat difficult to believe from an obvious Englishman?”

“Obvious?”

“Who else would want zis map?”

His fingers ached to choke the bastard. He might not be able to kill him, but he could wound the scoundrel. Nothing wrong with a wound. He whipped his hand behind his back, grabbed the knife, and hurled it at the captain. It hit the arm that held the pistol. The captain howled. The pistol fired. Smoke filled the cabin with its acrid stench. He ripped the map and fourth pin from the table and ran to the door.

Steps sounded on the planks above the captain’s cabin. In the pitch black belowdecks, he forced himself to wait in the shadows under the stairs until the first group of rescuers filed down the steps into the captain’s cabin. He flattened the map’s scroll and folded it into a six-inch square.

“He’s escaped, you idiots! Find him before he jumps from the ship!” the captain yelled in French.

The group dutifully filed back up to spread across the decks. The captain came running out, clutching his injured arm, blood seeping between his fingers, crimson dripping down his nightshirt. He made his way up the stairs and ran off across the deck.

Springing from the shadows, he raced back into the empty cabin. He flew over to the window, said a brief prayer to fit through the tight space, hoisted up to the ledge, and pushed his upper body through. He ripped off his black tricorn, stuck the folded map to his head, and pulled down the hat as firmly as possible.

A rope swung outside the captain’s window two feet to the right. Thank God for small favors. He lunged at it and grabbed it. Noiselessly, he lowered himself down the rope, bracing both feet against the hull to rappel toward the water. Lowering quietly, he winked back at the figurehead of a saucy French woman carved beneath the captain’s cabin. As soon as he made it into the water, he let go of the rope and swam like a mackerel fleeing a shark toward the shore, careful to keep his head out of the foul-smelling drink. He counted on the black of night and the murky Thames to hide him from the searchers on the ship.

As he covered the distance between the French ship and the shore, he could hear the Frenchmen yelling and running about. He dared a glance back. Every lantern on the ship appeared to have been lit and the crew was scurrying about like a bevy of ants on an infiltrated hill.

He swam to the darkest spot on the far end of the docks, around the bend from sight of the French ship, and pulled himself ashore beneath a creaky dock using only his forearms. Exhausted, he rolled onto his back and lay breathing heavily in the pitch-black night. One hand went up to clap the top of his tricorn and a wide smile spread across his face.

He’d done it. He’d escaped from a French ship with the map detailing the planned route to rescue Napoleon from St. Helena. Of course he had. He was the Black Fox.

 

Copyright © 2017 by Valerie Bowman and reprinted with the permission of St. Martin’s Paperbacks.

 

2017 Book #40 – White Sand, Blue Sea by Anita Hughes

5180-8M3tPLTitle: White Sand, Blue Sea
Author: Anita Hughes
Date finished: 5/2/17
Genre: Fiction, women’s fiction
Publisher: St. Martin’s Griffin
Publication Date: April 11, 2017
Pages in book: 289
Stand alone or series: Stand alone I think, its hard to tell from the website if the other books are connected
Where I got the book from: NetGalley NOTE: I received this book for free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This in no way affected my opinion of the book, or the content of my review.

Blurb from the cover:

Olivia Miller is standing on the porch of her mother and stepfather’s plantation style villa in St. Barts. They have been coming here every April for years but she is always thrilled to see the horseshoe shaped bay of Gustavia and white sand of Gouverneur’s Beach. This trip should be particularly exciting because she is celebrating her twenty-fifth birthday and hoping that Finn, her boyfriend of four years, will propose.
The only person who won’t be here is her father, Sebastian, whom she hasn’t seen in twenty years. He’s a well-known artist and crisscrosses the globe, painting and living in exotic locations like Kenya and China. When Sebastian unexpectedly walks through the door and floats back into Olivia’s life like a piece of bad driftwood she never knew she wanted, she starts to wonder if her world is too narrow. She questions the dreams and the relationship she’s always thought she wanted. But there seems to be more to the story than an innocent fatherly visit, and Olivia must decide if love is more important than truth.
Set on St. Barts, the jewel of the Caribbean, Anita Hughes’s WHITE SAND, BLUE SEA is a heartwarming story about romance and adventure, and most important, about knowing yourself, and what makes you happy.

My rating:  1.25 stars out of a scale of 5

My review: I was provided a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest and fair review. This book tells the story of Olivia Miller and her family during Olivia’s birthday week vacation at her step-father’s home on St. Bart’s. Olivia is soon to turn 25 and she has been waiting for 20 years for her biological father to come to one of her birthday parties. So when he turns up at the door about 4 days before her birthday, she is ecstatic. Sebastian is a charmer and in no time has everyone eating out of the pal, of his hand. But is there really room in Olivia’s life for someone like Sebastian after all these years?
Overall I didn’t care for this book. I found the characters to be flat and emotionless and unrealistic. After 20 years of not seeing her father, Olivia is overjoyed to have him show up? I find it hard to believe that she wouldn’t have been a little more angry at him. And the “arguments” in the book as well as most of the conversation felt forced and unbelievable. The narratives would jump from flashbacks to present tense with almost no transitions, which made it really confusing to read. I didn’t really like or connect with any of the characters. There didn’t seem to really be a particular plot and most of the narratives about flashbacks didn’t add any value to the story line and seemed irrelevant.

The bottom line: I really didn’t care for this book.

Link to author website

Click on the cover to go to the book’s Amazon page

The Enemies of Versailles BLOG TOUR!!

S. Christie Banner

The Enemies of Versailles will be released this Tuesday (March 21st) and to celebrate I am participating in a Blog Tour for the book! If you haven’t already seen it, you can find my review of the book here. See below for more information about the book, an excerpt, a short author bio, and author Q&A! This was a really good read and a great conclusion to the series, I would definitely recommend checking it out! 

SUMMARY

In the final installment of Sally Christie’s “tantalizing” (New York Daily News) Mistresses of Versailles trilogy, Jeanne Becu, a woman of astounding beauty but humble birth, works her way from the grimy back streets of Paris to the palace of Versailles, where the aging King Louis XV has become a jaded and bitter old philanderer. Jeanne bursts into his life and, as the Comtesse du Barry, quickly becomes his official mistress.
“That beastly bourgeois Pompadour was one thing; a common prostitute is quite another kettle of fish.”
After decades of suffering the King’s endless stream of Royal Favorites, the princesses of the Court have reached a breaking point. Horrified that he would bring the lowborn Comtesse du Barry into the hallowed halls of Versailles, Louis XV’s daughters, led by the indomitable Madame Adelaide, vow eternal enmity and enlist the young dauphiness Marie Antoinette in their fight against the new mistress. But as tensions rise and the French Revolution draws closer, a prostitute in the palace soon becomes the least of the nobility’s concerns.
Told in Christie’s witty and engaging style, the final book in The Mistresses of Versailles trilogy will delight and entrance fans as it once again brings to life the sumptuous and cruel world of eighteenth century Versailles, and France as it approaches irrevocable change.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

4957310Sally Christie was born in England of British parents and grew up around the world, attending eight schools in three languages. She has spent most of her career working in international development and is currently settled in Toronto. A life-long history buff who wishes time travel were a real possibility—she’d be off to the eighteenth century in a flash!—The Enemies of Versailles is her third novel. Learn more about Sally and the Mistresses of Versailles trilogy at www.sallychristieauthor.com

 

AUTHOR Q&A

What about the topic of the mistresses of King Louis XV captured your attention? What made you want to write about this?

I was initially drawn to the incredible tale of the five Nesle sisters, four of whom became his first mistresses. I was amazed that their story was virtually unknown in the English-speaking world, and I remembered being so excited that I had found it and that I would be the one to tell it!

I was initially only focused on the sisters, but when I discovered that his more famous mistresses – the Marquise de Pompadour and the Comtesse du Barry – also hadn’t been the subject of any English fiction, the trilogy was born.

Which mistress was your favorite? Or alternatively which character in the books was your favorite?

Hmmmm…. A hard question! I really loved all my characters – each of the five Nesle sisters has a place in my heart and I adored Jeanne du Barry – I think she was perhaps overall the kindest, most genuine woman. Pompadour was a little trickier, because she is (and was) such an enigma – she was the perfect woman that became exactly who the king wanted her to be, and trying to discover her real persona and her real motivations was fascinating.

There is a soft spot in my heart for Madame Adelaide, Louis XV’s eldest surviving daughter and the nemesis of Jeanne du Barry in The Enemies of Versailles. It was really interesting researching about the daily lives of her and her sisters, and all of the constraints and boundaries around them as unmarried royal princesses in the stultifying world of Versailles.  She became a figure of fun in her later years, and in my book I do lampoon her a bit – it’s easy to make fun of fusty old spinsters and I certainly fell into that trap. In reality I think she was an intelligent woman who no doubt suffered quite a bit in her life, both before and after the Revolution.

When did you realize you wanted to be an author and did you have another profession before this?

I’ve been writing since I was 8 years old and writing has been my constant companion and hobby throughout the years. Even though I wasn’t published, I always considered myself a writer (because that’s what I did!), and when a change in my circumstances a few years ago left me with some space and time to write full-time, I thought: “Okay, let’s test this assumption that you are a writer.” Luckily everything worked out and I did become a writer!

Between graduating from university and writing the Mistresses of Versailles trilogy, I worked at a whack of other jobs, including financial services, headhunting and international development, and also got an MBA. I like having had lots of varied, real-world experiences before writing full-time; I definitely think it helps in terms of character development and motivations.

I also found working in different cultures overseas helped with writing history: in different societies you get to experience remnants of the past, for example more overt sexism than what we might deal with today in North America, or attitudes about poverty or handicapped people that might mimic some of what existed in the 18th century.

Do you have any advice for aspiring writers?

The best piece of advice I read when I was dedicating myself to writing full time was: “Write the book you’d want to read.” And I did, and I loved the book I was writing (at that time my first book, The Sisters of Versailles) and it helped me to keep the faith during the nerve-wracking querying and selling process – if I liked it, surely someone else would too!

EXCERPT

5154lvfkqgl-_sx320_bo1204203200_“I am in the arms of an angel,” he declared, over and again. “What kind of angel are you?” he asked me, then answered himself: “A saucy, dirty, lovely, kind angel. But an angel, my dearest: never have I awoken to such delights.”

I savor his words and the memories, trying to catch every little detail before they disappear. That look of delight when I showed him the way; how he turned from a jaded old man into one filled with tenderness and energy; his doting words (I have been waiting for you all my life); the feel of his skin; the smell of verbena on the pillows; the softness of the down mattress; and his childish delight in all that I offered him.

“I have been wandering in the desert for four years,” he murmured. “Not forty, as Moses did, but four years is a long enough time. Now I have found you.”

I stayed two days and two nights nestled in a room under the eaves of the palace. Then Louis—as he says I must call him—had to prepare for the imminent death of the queen, and I was sent here to this discreet little house in town, just steps from the palace.

Barry joins me, flustered and nervous. He promised me—the king, I mean, not Barry—that he would send for me soon. “As soon as I can, my angel,” he said, holding me tighter than any man has ever held me. And now I sit, and wait, and remember. The house is small, but clean and smartly furnished. I wander through the rooms and look at the naked nymphs painted on the salon walls, smile in recognition at a gilded chair with straps, now sitting in an empty bedchamber. It is so quiet here, after all the noise and bustle of Paris—almost like being in the countryside.

I sigh in contentment. The King of France said he loved me! Me.

“He is so kind and has the nicest eyes and his voice is so soft and deep, as soft as . . . as . . . a cushion.” My eyes fasten on the sofa, then on the delicate tortoiseshell box that arrived that morning, containing a beautiful pearl necklace. “And, oh,” I continue, jumping up onto a chair and sticking my tongue out at Barry:

“Did I mention he is the king? The King of France?” Barry puffs his cheeks and watches me silently. He’s worried; it’s been three days now, and apart from the necklace, no word from the palace.

“Three days,” he says sharply. “Three days—you’re a fool to be dancing around like you own him. He’s forgotten you already.”

“Oh, la, shut up!” I cry, jumping down and going over to ruffle his hair. “The king loves me. Loves me,” I repeat. “Don’t be worried. Now,” I say, leaning down to peck Barry on the cheek, “instead of worrying, you should be planning which government post you want! Or would you like another five supply contracts? Ten?” Or maybe an ambassadorship, I think, twirling away and going to sit by the window; it might be nice to have Barry firmly gone.

“I did consult my lawyer about purchasing a house on the rue de Varennes,” he says, puffing out another long sigh. “But perhaps that was premature, two nights is a flimsy foundation for a lifetime of dreams to hang upon.”

“Oh, poof, Barry, you do talk nonsense sometimes. I’m going out for a walk.” I grab my cloak and hurry out the door, eager to get away from his sour mood. I want to walk forever and absorb the amazing turn my life has taken, but instead my footsteps lead me toward the Place d’Armes, the giant esplanade in front of the palace. All roads lead here. Ahead of me the palace sits in its golden, spreading glory, hundreds of windows glinting back their secrets, the majestic iron and gold gates hung with great black cloths for the queen’s mourning. He is in there, somewhere . . . What is he doing? Is he thinking of me?

Versailles is a fairyland, a land of mythical beings, one that spreads for miles and miles. That is the life that I want. Barry always accuses me of being lazy, and without ambition, but suddenly I feel it, a craving so intense and so sharp it stops my heart with longing.

I want that life, and all that it offers.