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Review: The Irish Warrior


May 31, 2010




The Irish Warrior

Author: Kris Kennedy
Publisher: Zebra/Kensington
Pub. Date: June 1, 2010
ISBN-13: 978-1420106534
Retail: $6.99
384 pages

Inhibited, accountant-minded Senna de Valery comes to Ireland to finalize a deal that will save her faltering wool business. What she gets instead is a cunning English lord with dangerous ulterior motives.

Forced to rely on her wits, not her ledgers, Senna frees an Irish warrior chained in the prisons, and together they flee across the war-torn land of medieval Ireland. But Finian O’Melaghlin is much more than a charming, roguish warrior. He is councilor to his king, on a grave mission to recover military secrets, and has a dangerous agenda of his own.

Neither is prepared for the powerful forces arrayed against them …

Neither can resist the fiery passion igniting between them …

Neither can imagine the sacrifices they will face, nor the choices they will be forced to make …

King and outlaws, weapons and war: Can love indeed triumph over all?

~*~*~

Kris Kennedy’s star is rising at warp speed with her To Die For Hero in this super sexy, heart stopping medieval, The Irish Warrior.

Admittedly, I don’t normally read medievals. I’m not much into violence or political intrigue in my romances. That said, last year I read an excerpt from The Irish Warrior and was champing at the bit the read the rest.

The story begins with some violence. Okay, perhaps a lot of violence. Our hero, Finian O’Melaghlin, an Irish noble, warrior, and chief to the O’Fail king, is being tortured by Rardove, an English lord who is evil with a capital E. Rardove wants to use Finian to secure documents, a blueprint to create the Wishmés dyes. These legendary dyes have the power of chemical weaponry. The side who possesses them would be indestructible. Rardove wants them. Finian is out to make sure he never gets them.

Our heroine, Senna de Valery, arrives in Ireland to meet with Rardove to finalize a deal for her wool business. What she finds instead is Rardove intent on marrying her and utilizing the gift he believes she inherited from her mother, who was a Wishmés dye witch (as they called them). This is not what Senna came for so she refuses him and is quickly and violently shown that no one refuses Rardove.

Desperate, after seeing Finian shackled and sharing a silent potent exchange with him, she connives by drugging Rardove and the prison guards, escaping with Finian, whom she needs as a guide in this unfamiliar land.

But on the run, they are wanted fugitives with bounties on their head, for Rardove will stop at nothing to get Senna back. Their flight from Rardove is both taut with sexual tension as well as breath-stealing suspense. They have to evade Rardove’s men, English soldiers and anyone else who might be inclined to turn them in. I have to say my heart was in my throat half the time and the other half the time, I was literally swooning at the hotter than hot love scenes. These love scenes are only part of the reason that Finian is a HERO TO DIE FOR!

In one of the more light-hearted moments of the book, Senna and Finian hide out in a brothel is a village where one of Rardove’s men just announced a bounty on their head and then proceeds to lock the gates to the village (locking them inside). There, in the brothel, the woman are complaining that the men use their services and then leave without paying. Senna intervenes and proceeds to instruct the woman in the matters of shrewd commerce.

“And this business of collecting payment after the service is rendered…?” Senna shook her head sagely. “That is a poor practice indeed. You collect beforehand. In your business—not that I know much of it,” she added quickly, “but I’ve a brother and a father, and I know them rather well. You simply cannot expect their assessment of the value of the goods…to remain as high after they have …sampled.”

I read the last fifty pages of the book with my heart in my throat, I swear to you. It’s been awhile since I’ve gotten emotional like that over a book. I think the last time was when I was reading Stephen King’s Misery and Annie (the crazy antagonist) was chopping of the protagonist’s foot. I was in complete agony! And my goodness, if I wasn’t already crazy in love with Finian then (which I was), I fell fathoms deep in love with him then. I swear he’s the kind of hero we need to find a way to bring to life. I’ve reread the end countless times just so I can swoon over him again and again and again.

It’s hard to believe this is only Kris Kennedy’s second book. She is one medieval author who’s managed to make this reader, who was never very partial to medievals, into one that will pick up any medieval—any book—with her name on it. I’m eagerly anticipating her next book (I pray it’s about Senna’s brother) and getting a physical copy of this one for my keeper shelf. :) ~ Beverley

Rating: 9 (Excellent)

Heat-Level: 4 (Hot)

HAPPY MEMORIAL DAY!


May 31, 2010

To all the men and women who fought and died,  still fight for the vestiges of their sanity; who have lost limbs and more than a mind can fathom, I applaud your bravery, your humanity and your sacrifice. You will forever have my Gratitude, Admiration and Respect. God Bless America.

Winners not collecting their books & Excerpt Thursdays


May 30, 2010

Here’s a post I never thought I’d have to put up. With more frequency than before, winners are NOT coming back to see if they’ve won books. I guess in some ways it’s pretty natural. You go to many different blogs, comment on many of them and forget to go back to see if you’ve won.

Now some of you might ask, why don’t you just email them and tell them they’ve won? Well the obvious answer to that is I want them to come back to the blog. Frequently. Not just once or even twice.

So what I’ve decided to do since I’m getting a rash of winners neglecting to check back to see if they’ve won, starting this week, I’m going to start rewarding my frequent visitors when the winners don’t come back to collect. This is how it will work. A week after post announcing the winners, I will go back and find my most frequent commenter(s) and reward them the prize. If there is more than one, I’ll draw between them. Couldn’t be more simple, right? Let’s face it, faithful commenters are who all blogs are looking for and I’m going to try to find ways to show my appreciation. :)

Now if you’re one of the visitors who doesn’t check into the blog weekly and you’ve commented to win a book, I would suggest that you subscribe to The Season Blog RSS Feed, which is on the sidebar right at the top. I have my feeds delivered to my email. I love it because I never miss a post of my favourite blogs.

Published authors, I’ve sadly neglected Excerpt Thursdays. The reason I love this so much is because a good excerpt has always been able to sell a book to me. As authors, we have no or little say in our covers or our back cover copy. The words inside our books are truly ours. It is the story and our voice. If authors can hook a read with that, they’ve got a sale. And let’s face it, sales are what keep us in business. So saying all that, I’m resurrecting Excerpt Thursdays once again. If you’d like your book featured on Excerpt Thursdays, please email me at historicals at smittenbybooks dot com.

Review: When Marrying a Scoundrel


May 29, 2010

Comment and enter to win a copy of your own! Winner will be posted June 3rd.

JUNE TOP PICK!
When Marrying a Scoundrel

Author: Kathryn Smith
Publisher: Avon/HarperCollins
Pub. Date: May 25, 2010
ISBN-13: 978-0061923005
Retail: $7.99
384 pages

Sadie Moon once thought she was in love. Then her dashing husband left her to seek his fortune, and she had no choice but to transform herself from a heartbroken waif into London Society’s favorite fortuneteller. But even she could not have foreseen Jack’s return — until their paths cross in the last place either would have expected: London’s most exclusive house of pleasure.

Now wealthy and successful, Jack Friday has everything he’d ever dreamed of…except Sadie. He swears he cannot trust the woman who broke her promise to wait for him, though his passion for her burns as hotly as it did years before. But love, like the past, comes back to haunt them —drawing them into a web of intrigue and betrayal while reigniting a fire that could save or destroy them both.

~*~*~

Sadie has made a new life for herself, after the abandonment of her young husband shatters her world. In lieu of starving, she reinvents herself as the foremost fortune teller of London. When she sees her husband, Jack Farrington, in the tea leaves, she is astounded. Where has he been and what is he doing using the name Jack Friday? Questions multiply as Sadie pretends not to know Jack, and yet cannot overcome the passion and desire he brings forth in her with each encounter. How can she trust this man who betrayed her young heart? Who is it that is trying to tear the lovers apart?

Jack is a wealthy and powerful man. His only desire in life is the one woman who promised to wait for him, Sadie. Now, seeing her, he realizes his desire for her is stronger than before, though he knows he can never trust her. As each day passes, he falls deeper under her spell but there is someone out there who does not want them together and will stop at nothing to separate them again. When the true reasons for their parting surface, will they forgive each other and move on to a life filled with promise?

Return to Victorian England to meet Sadie Moon and Jack Friday, young lovers separated by time and circumstance. Kathryn Smith gifts readers with a solid and engaging tale sure to be a “keeper” for many. As a reader, an emotional connection is made from the opening scenes; the brisk plotting and likeable characters draw the reader into the story like a fly on the wall. One cannot help but become Sadie and Jack’s cheerleader as they work their way back to each other’s arms. Along the way, there is intrigue and danger, regret and misunderstanding as we learn the reason for the separation. What began as young and immature love is soon replaced with a mature and abiding love. When Marrying a Scoundrel isn’t so much about sex, but instead is all about romance. Though Jack had some forgiveness to beg, by the time he fell back under Sadie’s spell I loved him as much as Sadie.

Rating: 9 (Excellent)

Heat-Level: 4 (Hot)

Review: The Notorious Scoundrel


May 28, 2010

The Notorious Scoundrel
Author: Alexandra Benedict
Publisher: Avon/HarperCollins
Pub. Date: May 11, 2010
ISBN-13: 978-0061689321
Retail: $7.99
384 pages

Like an irresistible siren, the veiled dancer with the bewitching green eyes lures dukes and earls down into London’s underworld to see her dance-and succumb to her spell. Some say she’s a princess, but only one man knows her darkest secret.

She is Amy Peel, an orphan from the city’s rookeries, and she believes the bold rogue who unmasks her to be nothing but a scoundrel-albeit a dangerously handsome one. He may have rescued her from an attempted kidnapping, but she will not give in to his sensual seduction or to the wicked desire she begins to feel . . .

He is Edmund Hawkins, swashbuckling pirate turned reluctant gentleman, and he will not let the lovely Amy slip through his grasp, especially when he learns she’s in greater peril than she could possibly know. He will do everything in his power to protect her-for this notorious scoundrel has truly, unbelievably, lost his heart

~*~*~

Alexandra Benedict tells a story of love overcoming all odds with strong characters but a somewhat weak plot. I have read all of her other books and enjoyed all but one, now I need to add a second to my list of disappointments. The plot to this book totally twisted me around and was completely unexpected and the back cover did not explain the book well. I was half-way through the book before I got a somewhat clear understanding of the plot. I felt the story was almost fragmented; the completion of certain scenes were practically non-existent. It was like things just stopped and you went on to something else with little or no wrap up. The ending was not satisfying for me and a bit of a let down.

Amy, our heroine, is an independent girl who has grown up on the streets, trying hard to make a decent living without having to resort to selling her body. She longs for a better life for herself and dreams of a time and place where she is more than she is. Little does she know, her dreams may in fact be memories…

Edmund, who we have met before in previous books, is still the quiet and reserved brother who enjoys a good brawl and brooding over a mug of ale. He wants a life independent of his older brothers’ control and the pressures of his family and his past. He seems to find purpose and direction in helping to protect Amy from some mysterious thugs who have tried to kidnap her on several occasion all while trying to avoid falling in love with the girl. Good luck with that one Eddie!

A Notorious Scoundrel is the second book of the Hawkins Brother series, the first being An Infamous Rogue, which I have also read. There is a prequel to that book called Mistress of Paradise that I recommend you read if you wish to read the lead book in this series. The characters are also connected to another one of Alexandra’s books, Too Great A Temptation, which outlines the story of the Hawkins’ sister Belle.

There was only one short love scene which was very tame compared to other books I have read by Alexandra and lacked something in terms of the intimacy between the characters.

I like Alexandra as a writer, her books tend to be original but this one let me down. I hope the next book in the series has a bit more spunk.

Rating: 6 (Satisfactory)

Heat-Level: 2 (Mild)

And the winners are…


May 28, 2010

The winner of the 9 (nine) Top Picks and Feature Books Giveaway is…


Heather W.

~~~

The 2 (two) winners of Christine Wells’ SWEETEST LITTLE SIN are…

Cher
Babs

~~~

The winner of Amanda McCabe’s Muse Sister Trilogy is…


HistoricalRomanceJunkie Rita

Congratulations, ladies. Please email your contact information to me at historicals at smittenbybooks dot com. You have one week to collect your books.

Sherry Thomas ~ All Your Heroes Are Belong to Eton


May 27, 2010

Today we have the fabulous Sherry Thomas guest blogging. As many of you know, Sherry burst on to the historical romance scene with PRIVATE ARRANGEMENTS, one of my all time favourite historical romances. Her prose is…the only way I can put it is to die for. This year Sherry’s NOT QUITE A HUSBAND is a RITA nominee for Best Historical. Please extend a warm welcome to Sherry as she chats with us about Eton–the reigning school of our historical heroes.

~*~*~

If you read and/or write historical romance, you’ve probably heard of Eton College, the independent (private, in U.S. terminology) school for boys that has produced 19 British prime ministers, including the newest, David Cameron. And while the royal family traditionally educated princes at Gordonstoun, Princess Diana’s brother Earl Spencer is an Old Etonian, and Eton was where both Prince William and Prince Harry spent their teenage years.

Many, many historical romance heroes have attended Eton. Have you ever wondered what their life at school might have been like?

Well, think of Hogwarts, which is the most famous boarding school in literary history. There are some similarities. Although Eton students do not live in a castle, they are divided into various residential houses. And just like in Hogwarts, much of the students’ social life revolve around their peers in the same residential house.

Nowadays the houses are administered by the school. But during the 19th century and before, they were separate establishments, opened either by masters who wanted the extra income, or by enterprising women will and able to keep forty boys under control. Students referred to their particular house as either my tutor’s or my dame’s, depending on whether the house is operated by a man or a woman.

Eton, founded by Henry VI, was originally a charity school intended to educate poor boys who would then go on to King’s College at Cambridge. The boys who passed an examination and were therefore educated at the king’s expense are called King’s Scholars. At any given point in time, there were 70 King’s Scholars of various ages on campus, and their house is called College House, run by the school itself from the very beginning.

Aerial view of Eton

Your average Regency heroes, however, even if they aced the examination, were unlikely to be Kings Scholars. For much of its history, the conditions at College House were deplorable—and terrible food on top of it. So a boy from a family of any means would have been sent to one of the more comfortable, privately run houses, where each student had a room of his own to decorate as he pleased.

Another similarity between Hogwarts and Eton is the self-governing structure of the students. Britain’s public schools were the train grounds for the administrators of her empire. The boys had a say in the selection of their prefects. Between the prefects (called Debate and Library in centuries past), the House Captain, and the Game captain, the boys managed most of their own affairs. Even corporal punishments were administered by a prefect, instead of an adult.

Yet one more similarity between the most famous fictional boarding school and the most famous real-world boarding school is the sports madness. At Hogwarts there is only one sport, Quidditch. At Eton there are many, many sports. Eton’s three annual terms (called Halves) is each dominated by a distinct set of sports. The Michaelmas Half (fall term) is all football (soccer) and rugby. The Lent Half (spring term) the students play what is called field game, which is a type of football unique to Eton. And the Summer Half is associated with the sports that most often come to mind when we think about Eton, rowing and cricket.

Everybody played. It is difficult to overstate the pervasiveness of the sporting culture—a central tenet of manhood, in fact. The Duke of Wellington is believed to have said, “The battle of Waterloo was won on the playing fields of Eton.” In 1939, during WWII, Eton donated fifteen acres of its playing field to the British Government’s Grow-More-Food program—and that made the news pages of Time Magazine.

Eton Weekly Class Schedule

Where Eton completely differs from Hogwarts, of course, is in its curriculum. I have here a weekly class schedule from circa 1900. And you can see, the boys education is concentrated overwhelmingly in the classics, even at that late date.

Yet another difference is the practice of fagging, which does not exist in Hogwarts and has been phased out at Eton, but was definitely still in place during earlier ages. A young boy who first enters Eton becomes a fag—a sort of personal servant—to a senior boy. He makes the senior boy’s tea—not just jam and crumpet, but a serious meal—fetches things, and makes himself generally useful.

So could your Old Etonian hero cook? Not all that well, perhaps. But when push comes to shove, anyone who had fagged—and every boy starting Eton fagged, no exceptions—could brew tea, make toast, and fry an egg.

Which just makes him more dreamy, non? :)

(And if the title of this post looks odd to you, click here )

~*~*~

His At Night
Author: Sherry Thomas
Publisher: Bantam
Pub. Date: May 25, 2010
ISBN-13: 978-0553592443
Retail: $7.99
432 pages

Elissande Edgerton is a desperate woman, a virtual prisoner in the home of her tyrannical uncle. Only through marriage can she claim the freedom she craves. But how to catch the perfect man?

Lord Vere is used to baiting irresistible traps. As a secret agent for the government, he’s tracked down some of the most devious criminals in London, all the while maintaining his cover as one of Society’s most harmless—and idiotic—bachelors. But nothing can prepare him for the scandal of being ensnared by Elissande.

Forced into a marriage of convenience, Elissande and Vere are each about to discover they’re not the only one with a hidden agenda. With seduction their only weapon against each other—and a dark secret from the past endangering both their lives—can they learn to trust each other even as they surrender to a passion that won’t be denied?

So do you like your heroes Eton schooled? Comment and enter to win an autographed copy of HIS AT NIGHT.

Review: To Kiss A Count


May 26, 2010

Comment to enter to win the entire trilogy: To Catch a Rogue, To Deceive a Duke and To Kiss a Count!

To Kiss a Count
Author: Amanda McCabe
Publisher: Harlequin Historicals
Pub. Date: June 1, 2010
ISBN-13: 978-0373295975
Retail: $5.99
288 pages

Her dashing nobleman

Leaving exotic Sicily behind, and with it her heart, Thalia Chase returns to England to visit her sister–and to try and forget the enigmatic Italian Count di Fabrizzi. She’s shocked to suddenly see him in Bath–and in the company of a suspected thief!

His determined lady

Marco, Count di Fabrizzi, is on a dangerous mission and doesn’t need the beautiful Lady Chase hindering his progress. But she is intent on adventure–so what is a gentleman to do when a lady is so insistent, and so very passionate?

~*~*~

TO KISS A COUNT by Amanda McCabe is the third book in her Muse sister trilogy. Thalia Chase has watched her two sisters’ fall in love and have adventures and all she really wants is her turn and one man.

Marco, Count di Fabrizzi, is on a mission to find something of great importance to his home country of Italy, but he can’t get Thalia out of his head. These two were made for each other and the excitement in getting to see them together was a lot of fun.

My favorite part of the book was anytime Thalia and Marco found themselves alone. He couldn’t keep his hands off of her no matter how hard he tried. And although not explicit at all, their exchanges were HOT!

“Cara, I waned you once – forget about me,” he said, his accent heavy as fine satin. Suddenly, quick as a lightning strike, he seized her by the waist, lifting her off her feet as he twirled her around. Before she could even draw breath, their positions were reversed, and he held her captive.

She tightened her grasp on his hair, holding on as the whole world tilted around her.

“But you would not listen,” he murmured in her ear, his warm breath stirring her hair. She shivered, her thoughts turning hazy and unreal. “I will not warn you twice.”

And he kissed her, but not just any kiss. His mouth crashed down on hers, hungry and hot. Thalia’s lips parted, his tongue darting out to seek hers, to taste her deeply.”

It was easy to fall in love with Marco and be delighted that Thalia finally got her adventure. I would suggest reading the first two books in the series: TO CATCH A ROGUE and TO DECIEVE A DUKE. While I do believe that the story flows well as a stand alone there are a few plot points that make sense due to what happened in the first two books. This is my only real complaint about this book. There is a lot of back story and if I hadn’t read the first two in the series I might not have been able to enjoy this one as much. Plus, they are both fantastic reads and very enjoyable.

This book is perfect for reading on a sunny spring day, just be prepared to daydream about handsome Italian Counts and hot kisses in darkened hallways.

Rating: 8 (Very Good)

Heat-Level: 3 (Sensual)

Review: To Deceive a Duke


May 25, 2010

To Deceive a Duke
Author: Amanda McCabe
Publisher: Harlequin Historicals
Pub. Date: May 1, 2010
ISBN-13: 978-0373295937
Retail: $5.99
288 pages

Clio Chase is hoping for a quiet season in Sicily with her family. There, she can forget all about the enigmatic Duke of Averton and the strange effect he has on her. That is until he unexpectedly arrives, shattering her peace and warning her of trouble….

The unsettling attraction is still strong between them, despite the secrets they hide. But, as the unknown threat grows, they are thrown together in the most intimate of ways. Clio knows there is only so long she can resist her mysterious duke!

~*~*~

Amanda McCabe delivers another solid, entertaining read that follows the adventuring-loving Chase sisters in the sun-soaked Italian countryside in their pursuit of ancient ruins.

To Deceive a Duke seamlessly picks up where To Catch a Rogue left off. Rogue was the story of the oldest Chase – Calliope (Cali) that also introduced her younger sisters Clio, Thalia and Cory – a.k.a. the Chase Muses – a family of educated, aristocratic young women dedicated to the antiquities and addicted to adventure.

Readers join the fiercely independent Chase women; Clio and younger sister Thalia accompanied by their widower father, Sir Walter Chase, now temporarily ensconced (from their native England) in Santa Lucia, Italy to excavate and preserve a site of ancient ruins as part of their lifelong quest to unearth and protect Greek and Roman antiquities. Cali, now wed to Lord Westwood, is on her honeymoon. As Clio works to put her past behind her in favor of more acceptable pastimes, Thalia emerges as a talented writer and actress.

Both sisters are charmingly brought to the forefront with their own distinctive voices, and personalities and of course, secrets, woven into the plot. While hard-working, determined Clio enjoys the darker side of adventure and mystery, Thalia, an irreverent, creative spirit sparks the interest of Count di Fabrizzi whose mysterious appearance at the side of the Lily Thief in the previous novel, left readers to wonder and wait.

As the Chase family settles in, the enigmatic Edward Radcliffe, Duke of Averton, arrives in Santa Lucia in pursuit of antiquities, a nobler principle and Clio. His unexpected appearance creates tension for both Clio and the reader as we try to unravel his purpose and reconcile his eccentric public persona with his private, more refined side.

Drawn together by a common passion for ancient artifacts and each other, Edward has traveled from England to protect Clio and his mission, both of which become unavoidably intertwined. Readers can definitely feel Clio’s struggles and her passion for her vocation even as she wars with herself over her former life, and growing attraction to Edward. The tension between the two builds nicely but Edward’s dialogue for me fell a bit short at times until some of his back story and pain was revealed.

While the love scenes were tender and passionate, they bordered on sweet rather than intense but this fit well with the Edward we come to know and the confidence that blossoms within Clio.

Mystery mixed with Italian superstition and impending peril are heightened as fellow Britons descend upon Sicily for a brief season, partaking of the theatre and all that is Italian. Presented to readers are the flamboyant Lady Riverton and her companion, Ronald Frobisher while the dashing Count di Fabrizzi is re-introduced to readers.

McCabe has skillfully blended the first ‘Chase’ book with the second incorporating romance and intrigue with danger while allowing the full development and exploration of the characters of Edward and Clio. Thalia is a delightful contrast to her sister with a seemingly irrepressible soul, leaving us wanting to see more of her. (Good news – there’s a third book!).

Another well-paced, story with fresh descriptions set amidst a romantic setting on the Sicilian coast, To Deceive a Duke gives us a strong sense of place, history and people as well as smooth characters arcs and clever plot twists to supply a fun and satisfying page-turner.

Rating: 7.5 (Good+)

Heat-Level: 3 (Sensual)

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