Tag Archives: historical romance

Review of The Widow of Rose House, by Diana Biller

After seeing it praised on Twitter, I borrowed a copy fo Diana Biller‘s The Widow of Rose House from the library.

Description from Goodreads:

It’s 1875, and Alva Webster has perfected her stiff upper lip after three years of being pilloried in the presses of two continents over fleeing her abusive husband. Now his sudden death allows her to return to New York to make a fresh start, restoring Liefdehuis, a dilapidated Hyde Park mansion, and hopefully her reputation at the same time. However, fresh starts aren’t as easy as they seem, as Alva discovers when stories of a haunting at Liefdehuis begin to reach her. But Alva doesn’t believe in ghosts. So when the eccentric and brilliant professor, Samuel Moore, appears and informs her that he can get to the bottom of the mystery that surrounds Liefdehuis, she turns him down flat. She doesn’t need any more complications in her life―especially not a handsome, convention-flouting, scandal-raising one like Sam.

Unfortunately, though Alva is loath to admit it, Sam, a pioneer in electric lighting and a member of the nationally-adored Moore family of scientists, is the only one who can help. Together, the two delve into the tragic secrets wreathing Alva’s new home while Sam attempts to unlock Alva’s history―and her heart.

Review:

I adored this. I thought Sam was too adorable for words. When he fell into his distracted inventor mode or social oblivion I swooned. He was just too sweet. Alva was prickly, but with reason. I admit that I usually try and avoid books centered on women surviving abuse (it’s a plot device I think is too often and too easily used), but I appreciated her strength here. Similarly, all of the side characters were marvelous. I want them all to get their own happily ever afters.

I think the book suffers from painting 21st-century morals on 19th-century characters. But I’ll forgive it, simply because I liked it so much. I look forward to more of Biller’s work.

Review of Heartstone, by Elle Katharine White

I borrowed a copy of Heartstone, by Elle Katharine White, from the local library.

Description from Goodreads:

A debut historical fantasy that recasts Jane Austen’s beloved Pride & Prejudice in a world of wyverns, dragons, and the warriors who fight alongside them against the monsters that threaten the kingdom: gryphons, direwolves, lamias, banshees, and lindworms.

They say a Rider in possession of a good blade must be in want of a monster to slay—and Merybourne Manor has plenty of monsters.

Passionate, headstrong Aliza Bentaine knows this all too well; she’s already lost one sister to the invading gryphons. So when Lord Merybourne hires a band of Riders to hunt down the horde, Aliza is relieved her home will soon be safe again.

Her relief is short-lived. With the arrival of the haughty and handsome dragonrider, Alastair Daired, Aliza expects a battle; what she doesn’t expect is a romantic clash of wills, pitting words and wit against the pride of an ancient house. Nor does she anticipate the mystery that follows them from Merybourne Manor, its roots running deep as the foundations of the kingdom itself, where something old and dreadful slumbers . . . something far more sinister than gryphons.

It’s a war Aliza is ill-prepared to wage, on a battlefield she’s never known before: one spanning kingdoms, class lines, and the curious nature of her own heart.

Review:

This was ok, just a little more YA than I was prepared for. Of course, I can’t criticize it for being what it is. I’m just admitting that I went in with a misconception. I saw that it’s a fantasy retelling of Pride and Prejudice and decided to go for it.

The writing is fine and I liked the characters well enough. However, this has a serious case of a love interest who never actually shows any love, not even any curtesy. Up until the moment he declares himself, I (and the heroine) thought he distinctly disliked her. So, love came as a surprise. Yes, I could tell he was being set up as the hero. But we’re never given any reason to tolerate, let alone like him. I appreciate that the heroine told him all of this. But she then turned right around and decided she loved him anyway. I didn’t feel this love develop AT ALL. The sister’s secondary romance was far more developed.

My biggest complaint about the book, however, is the fact that the heroine threw herself into danger that should have killed her, somehow miraculously survived, and her mere presence made things happen. As an example (and this is a SPOILER), hundreds of people were fighting and dying to kill the big bad at the end, had been for days. She literally showed up, said three sentences and within five minutes (maybe less) the big bad was dead, the hero was saved from something that should have killed him, and everyone lived happily ever after. All she had to do was show up. I found this anticlimactic and unbelievable.

I have book two. This was originally going to be a multi-book review. But, at this point, I’m undecided if I’ll read it or not.

What I read over Thanksgiving Holiday 2019

We spent Thanksgiving with my aunt and uncle in Tennessee. They have a lovely place outside the city—land, hot tub with a view, walking distance to the river, etc. Visiting them is always a little mind-blowing for me (in a good way).

From my house to theirs is a six hour drive. We stayed Thursday and Friday and then drove home last night (Saturday). That’s twelve hours in the car to read and then quite a bit of time while there.

You see, I love my family, but thanksgiving is always big and loud and chaotic. So much love in the air, but also just so many people. And I’m an introvert. I invariably get super overloaded and spend the day after Thanksgiving laying on the couch reading. It’s my way of being in my family’s presence, but allowing my introvert cells to recharge. The point is, you might not think such a short visit wouldn’t allow for much reading. But I read six books.

I’m going to review them all here, with the caveat that I took no notes and reading a book and then waiting to review it means I never remember quite as many details. For example, I do remember that one of these book needs further editing. But I don’t now remember which one, so I can’t mention it in the review. Similarly, some of the reviews might be on the short side. Pleasantly however, I liked them all. There have been years I couldn’t say that. Here we go.


the cover of vengeful prince

Vengeful Prince, by Mary E. Twomey:

I’m undecided about this book. Some things I really loved, but others I thought it pulled a bait-and-switch on the readers about, and it includes one of my BIGGEST PET PEVES. Let me address that first, since I probably won’t be able to concentrate until I get it out of the way. 

One of my biggest pet peeves: When the male MC falls in love with the female MC because she talks back to him in a way no one else will. (Here it’s actually not any of the male MC that do this, but it’s someone super integral to the plot. So, I’m calling it same-same). My problem with this logic as it plays out here (and almost every time authors do this) is that people don’t talk back to this powerful individual because he’ll kill or punish them if they do. But he doesn’t kill or punish the female MC when she does this…because she’s special…because she does it? It’s circular. And presumes she’s special prior to the very thing she’s being singled out as special for. Arg. I hate this so much and Lilya is seriously mouthy to people she shouldn’t mouth off to and gets away with it. What’s worse is that she’s no where near as brave with other people, so it doesn’t even fit her personality in the rest of the book. 

A positive, Salem. I loved Salem. Why didn’t we get more Salem? And why does poor Salem get so shafted? We have a heroine who will loom and yell at a king, but can’t tell a man who she longs for that she’s not disgusted by him? Three friends who will do anything for each other (including changing the whole structure of society), but neither of the other two will clear up the VERY OBVIOUS MISUNDERSTANDING to bring their best friend and love some happiness and end of distress? 

The bait and switch: It’s a reverse harem. Two of the three men are handsy as heck. They sleep together and make out, etc. But there’s not a single sex scene in the whole book (even after months having passed after marriage). It sets up an erotic plot line and then doesn’t deliver any…at all. 

For all that, I basically enjoyed it. I don’t know if I’d seek out the sequel for any reason except to see Salem finally get his happy ending. But I didn’t not enjoy it. 


Cover of House Ash & Brimstone

House of Ash & Brimstone, by Megan Starks:

I surprised myself by liking this book a lot more than I expected. (Though I do love the cover.) I expected it to be a lot more YA than it was, which was a pleasant surprise, and I think I might move heaven and Earth for Beast and Shade. Oh my, they were both wonderful in their own way. (Though I have to admit that it was Shade’s desperation I loved about him and that’s just a little cruel of me.) 

Gi-Gi was only a so-so heroine for me. I didn’t dislike like her by any stretch of the imagination, but I didn’t love her either. She seemed to make split second decisions and act on them without much thought. Some good (taking in Beast), some bad (hating Shade so extremely based on so little). 

Also, I never fully understood the motivation of her brothers. Beyond being generically evil the reason for everything they did isn’t really explored very deeply. I was especially interested in the oldest brother’s motivation. 

Lastly, I have to quibble with the cliche manner in which the only female villain (and only woman with any political cachet) is evil because she was denied a man. Anyone else ever wonder if there are no other motivation for female villains available or something? I’m so tired of always seeing this same one. 

All in all however, I liked the book and would happily pick up the next one in the series.


A Taste of Honey, by Rose Lerner:

This was wonderful and sweet. I liked how food tied into it so intricately and that it was the woman who took the initiative. I also loved that the two were so open to exploring and trying new things. However, I thought it was a stretch to go from I-couldn’t-possibly-kiss-you to pegging in less than a week. Despite that, the message of openness and willingness for those you love was one I appreciated. Not to mention Lerner just goes places that a lot of such authors don’t. All in all, a successful read for me.


Machine Metal Magic, by Hanna Dare:

I generally enjoyed this. I loved the caption’s sarcasm, Jaime’s sass, and Rylan’s ceaseless attempts to do the right thing. I did think the whole thing wrapped up a little quickly wondered if Rylan would really have been dishonorably discharged given the extenuating circumstances. Despite that I’ll be looking for book two.


How to Marry a Werewolf, by Gail Carriger

I adored Channing in Changeless and I was too happy to see him get his happy ending here. I appreciated seeing him meet his match; and what a match Faith is. A always, Carriger carries it all off with humor and too much tea. I can’t wait for more.


Mainly by Moonlight, by Josh Lanyon:

I mostly enjoyed this. I liked the world Lanyon created, the characters, and the mystery plot. But I never felt the spark of the romance at all. I know the author tried to address how the two could meet, fall in love, buy a (and decorate) house, and plan a wedding (including planting a special made garden) in two weeks. But I couldn’t buy it. And that wasn’t the only thing. Several other things didn’t hold together for me. There’s a pretty big reveal at one point that I simply can’t believe that Cosmo didn’t see coming, for example. For all that, if I suspended my disbelief far enough I found it a cute little read.


There you have it, reviews of the six book I read on my 2019 Thanksgiving holiday. Honestly, it’s more physical reading than I’ve done in a while. I’ve been mainly listening to audio books, which I love. But I find it was like coming home to spend some time with my Kindle.