Review: A Bend in the Willow by Susan Clayton-Goldner


January 18, 2017

Tirgearr Publishing ASIN: B01N0HL432

Contemporary Fiction Rating:  5*

In Willowood, Kentucky 1965, after a severe beating and rape Robin Lee Carter set a fire that killed her rapist and ran.  The resulting rape left her pregnant and after having the babe which she gave up for adoption she left again to reinvent herself.   Legally changing her name to Catherine Henry, she went to school and later married a medical school dean living in Tucson, Arizona. In 1985, when their 5-year-old son, Michael, is diagnosed with a chemotherapy-resistant leukemia, Catherine is desperate to find a bone marrow match and must return to Willowood.  There she will face her family and her 19-year-old son, a product of her rape, whom she gave up for adoption.  Though her return will likely lead to a murder charge, Catherine is willing to lose everything, including her life, and beg in order to save her dying 5 year old son.

Wow, it has been a long time since I actually sat and read a book cover to cover in one sitting, but this was one of those rare times where the reader becomes so invested in the outcome that you simply cannot put it down!  Not only was A BEND IN THE WILLOW that compelling and written so powerfully, it was also a new author I had never read before! My only issue and it is so minor, was reconciling the title with the story.

The early portion of A BEND IN THE WILLOW held the story of a struggling family, with a loving mother, her three children, and their father who suffered from PTSD following his service in Vietnam. A changed man from the loving, caring man her mother described to a young Robin Lee.   And with the beginning portion fully covered the reader gets to see and feel the emotional impact of all the motivations that lead to this powerful character driven novel.

Bottom line:  Loved this story!  I can’t describe more without giving spoilers, but this is a powerful story and  I could see this on the big screen as a major motion picture.   One note to new readers, have some tissues handy as there are parts where you will definitely need them.   Ms. Clayton-Gardner wrote beautifully capturing real emotions of real people who have struggled through life and you will have to lay this novel down more than a few times to re-compose yourself in order to continue.  VERY HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!

Marilyn Rondeau

Review: House of Silence by Sarah Barthel


December 27th 2016                               Kensington Publishing Corporation

ISBN 1496706080                                      Rating 4*

In the setting of Oak Park, Illinois, 1875 young Isabelle Larkin’s future seems to be set. She is engaged to the very handsome, charming, and politically ambitious Gregory Gallagher.  Isabelle envisions her happy future to be one of  a grand house, becoming an important political hostess and filling her home with wealth and beautiful children.  But then she witnesses a murder of a young maid being strangled by her very own fiancé.  When she tries to tell her mother and the doctor who cares for her, no one wants to believe her, and worst of all her mother continues to insist that she go through with her marriage to Gregory who denies it all.

Fearing for her life, Isabelle thinks of only one escape, she will pretend a mental breakdown that renders her mute and forces her mother to whisk her away to the Bellevue sanitarium.  After many episodes of trying to convince the doctor that she is indeed unstable and not ready to be released Isabelle does make the acquaintance and friendship with a fellow patient, Mary Todd Lincoln who was committed years after her husband’s assassination.  After a time, Isabelle and Mrs. Lincoln become unlikely allies where Isabelle is able to share her secrets, she must still continue her charade of mentally unstable because her mother refuses to give up her dreams of Isabelle marrying Gregory.

*** The threads of real life and fiction woven together made HOUSE OF SILENCE a fascinating read and the details of what life was like in the Bellevue Sanitarium were quite interesting – much different than what I expected and yet so much more.  Where I expected some of the cruelty and inhumanity associated with mental issues in the early century, Bellevue was like a rest home with assigned tasks to try to keep the patients relaxed. The author gave enough of background information  for some of the other patents that made this even more of story than just Isabelle trying to stay hidden and alive away from Gregory.

However, in the end it was a real thrill with edge of the seat action as the madness of Gregory came to the forefront and the reasons for it became exposed.   Bottom line:  HOUSE OF SILENCE was a truly interesting and well paced book that kept me up until the wee hours.

Marilyn Rondeau

Review: Kill Without Shame by Alexandra Ivy


Series: ARES Security #2                                  Rating:  4*

Publication: December 27th 2016 by Zebra      ASIN: B01DRXCGBC

ARES Security was formed when five brave military heroes came home after surviving captivity in the hell of a Taliban prison. They take on the civilian missions no one else can.  They’re highly skilled, intimidating, invincible and one by one tested over and over again. 

Lucas St. Clair’s prestigious family had their political expectations all worked out for him and they didn’t include Mia Ramon, his high school sweetheart from the other side of the tracks.  Under pressure, Lucas gave up both Mia and his family walking away to war from the homestead in Louisiana.  Now based in Houston, TX Lucas is questioned by law enforcement on a dead body, who just happens to have held Lucas’ name and address in his dead hand – along with a picture.

It took a moment for Lucas to recall the dead man but less than a second to recognize the picture of the girl with the threatening words scrawled over it, and Lucas knew he had to do everything in his power to protect her.   If only he could get close enough to speak to her after breaking her heart and leaving her high and dry 15 years ago.

What a great storyline!  I love smart and independent heroines combined with a sexy alpha male!  Fifteen years is a long time to nurse a broken heart, but when your life is being threatened it does make sense to allow the heart-breaker back into your life and maybe into your….

The protagonists and other members of the ARES security team were all fleshed out and introduced to whet your appetite for more of these sexy hard-assed and so very capable heroes.  The villain was kept pretty much a secret although I did have my suspicions.  Regardless this seems like a series I can highly suggest for an entertaining read.

Marilyn Rondeau


Review: Tycoon By Joanna Shupe


Series: The Knickerbocker Club   Print Length: 102 pages

Publisher: Zebra (February 23, 2016)  Sold by: Penguin Random House

ASIN: B00Y6RB2TQ Rating:  5*

Obviously at 102 pages this was a quick read, but regardless of the length, TYCOON was an excellent read and one I totally enjoyed.   Starting it,  I hadn’t realized that TYCOON was novella length but the writing was so crisp and dialogs so witty that I just immersed myself to enjoy a great story.

Ted Harper was simply minding himself on a train platform when a beautiful young lady rushed up to embrace him and give him a smack on the cheek and talking a mile a minute so that he couldn’t get a word in edgewise!

Clara Dawson, shop girl from a department store hadn’t been intending to board a train fleeing from New York but after witnessing her bosses murder by a notorious politician and his police bodyguard who would believe her!

The chemistry between Ted the stranger, and Clara was great especially when he offered her a seat in his private car.  He’s everything she ever desired even if a little stiff, but as a very nice bank clerk, she supposed that was how he should be. However as the danger slips in and Clara doesn’t tell him the truth of why she’s anxious to leave the city, Ted  suspects she is just another female trying to ambush him into marriage.  By the time he does come to believe her story, will it be too late to see her and lose the one female he has come to adore?

Bottom Line:   I loved this story, the character fleshing, and great writing!  Can’t wait to read more of the Knickerbocker Club!

Marilyn Rondeau

Review: Highland Sinner by Hannah Howell


Zebra Published December 27, 2016

ISBN13: 9780821780015 Series:  Murray Family #16

Setting:  Scotland, 1478 (United Kingdom)    Rating:  5*

Yes, Tormand Murray was a rogue, a womanizer and may indulge in spirits more than he ought, but, he was definitely not a callous murderer.  Yet how exactly can he explain waking up next to the butchered body of one of his many former ex-lovers?  Anyone who knows Tormand can tell you he just isn’t that type of man.  But how to explain the next few bodies, all previous ex-lovers of his, that are turning up dead and butchered?  Obviously, someone wants Tormand framed for these murders with his own.

There is one possibility of proving him innocent, that of reaching out to Moraine Ross, a reclusive and sensual, beautiful woman known as the Ross Witch.  Skeptic that he is, Tormand would never believe the stories that anyone really had second sight and could have a vision to discover who the madman is who is butchering these women.  But as the deaths started the townspeople talking of lynching him, Tormand was willing to agree.

Moraine was skeptical of a man who didn’t accept that her visions were real, but she had feelings, for Tormand she’d never experienced before.  Although Moraine had to think, would her participation then mark her as another victim to be murdered who was connected to Tormand.

***  As expected whenever I pick up a book by Hannah Howell, I become immediately hooked, not only with the fact that it is a connected book to the wonderfully gifted Murray Clan series, but I know that it will be something fresh and new!  No disappointment there!   Moraine is of course a wonderfully strong and feisty heroine and a perfect match for Tormand.   I loved how he finally had come to a conclusion as he made a list of previous lovers, that his conscience came to life and he realized he didn’t particularly like the man he’d become.

Ms. Howell, threw in a LOT of zingers in HIGHLAND SINNER with new characters who had big impact on the plot and also some twists that were truly surprising.  Naturally, it was completed with one randy rogue who had to learn a lot about how to woo a woman, he knew was too precious to let slip through his fingers.    Bottom Line:  A great read and wonderful romance!

Marilyn Rondeau

Review: The Pattern Artist by Nancy Moser


Publisher: Shiloh Run Press; Gld edition (December 1, 2016)

ISBN-13: 9781634097925     Rating:  5*

As an under maid to a wealthy aristocrat young Annie Wood arrives in New York in 1911 with two ladies maids, their mistress and her daughter.   As a rule, Annie would not have been brought along, but the two ladies maids as it turned out needed Annie to continue covering for them their lack of basic sewing skills.  With the idea that Annie would soon be recognized for her skill and advanced to a new position of ladies maid herself, Annie continued to serve and work as hard as she could until she discovered that she had been a dupe all along and no one was aware of her talents, the other two Ladies maid taking all the credit for her work.

Striking out on her own, Annie finds employment in the sewing department at Macy’s and while she begins her new career in rising to top most sales clerks in selling, she also attracts the attention of a salesman from the Butterick Pattern Company.  With her natural talent for design Annie discovers she is indeed very good at fashion design and becomes a fashion designer for the Butterrick Pattern Company on a rise to the top of her profession.   But persons from her past who feel Annie had done them a disservice were not about to let her rest upon her new fame.  Would her new friend and beau  be able to save her from the brutality that was planned to take her down?

***  This was truly a tale rich in historical detail which I found completely engrossing, from the early days of the great department store Macy’s to the days of Butterick and McCall’s sewing patterns for the home sewer.  I found enormous enjoyment in reading of the past that was part of my childhood where a subject in school was Home Economics and learning to sew from a pattern to make your own clothing!  Yes, those were the days!  The characters were all covered in depth and it brought back those simpler days I was brought up in that held simple truths and rules to follow for a fulfilling life.    Bottom Line:  THE PATTERN ARTIST is a great sweeping and strong story that will have you turning the pages to the final end and leave you with a wonderful happy feeling.

Marilyn Rondeau

Review: Lone Wolf by Sara Driscoll


Review:   Lone Wolf by Sara Driscoll

Series:  FBI K-9 #1

Published November 29th 2016 by Kensington Books     Rating: 4*

Meg Jennings and her Labrador, Hawk, are one of the FBI’s top K-9 teams certified for tracking, search and rescue. When a bomb rips apart a government building on the National Mall in Washington D.C., it will take all the team’s skill to locate and save the workers and children buried beneath the rubble. Discovering that a madman is on a bombing spree, Meg and Hawk are the key to stopping him before more innocents die.

While the first bombing was bad there was the relief of finding some victims who were still alive.  Unfortunately, the second bombing was much more catastrophic with no survivors.  The unseen bomber left messages indicating he would be continuing his reign of terror, bent on pursuing his own personal agenda of retribution. Meg and Hawk join the task force dedicated to following the trail of death and destruction to stop the killer.

LONE WOLF is actually more than just a thriller about a domestic terrorist creating his own form of terrorism as he enacts revenge against those who seem to be persecuting him. While the problem of  discovering the culprit is number one, I found I was just as focused on the relationship between handler and dog to be so fascinating.  I loved the details of how they were trained and the unique bond they develop with their handlers was fabulous.  Actually even identifying from a puppy who might be perfect enough to spend the time needed to train these dogs was thrilling.   Bottom line:   Loved every moment of LONE WOLF and highly suggest this for mystery readers and dog lovers alike!

Marilyn Rondeau

Review: His Wicked Lady by Sharon Drane


Publication: December 1st 2016 by Salt Run Publishing LLC

ISBN13: 9781623900557      Series:  Touch The Sky #3

Rating:  5*

I was completely engrossed from the very first pages of this delightful book by Ms. Sharon Drane.  Right from the beginning I wanted to smack the Baron William Hargreaves for his beastly insult to Miss Caroline Burgess.   And then I wanted to stand up and cheer for Caroline’s response back at William and the other aristocrats who joined in on verbally attacking Caroline.

No one hearing the nasty insults from William would ever believe that Caroline actually enjoys the skirmishes, or that she secretly relishes the feelings he stirs within her breast.    As much as William does his best to hide his growing attraction to Caroline the outspoken American heiress, she seems to continually fall further from acceptance from the Ton when she does the unthinkable and accepts a role in a play.   Probably the most inexcusable profession for a lady of the ton. 

None the less, William can’t ignore her for she had tried to save his niece from a disastrous marriage to a terrible bounder and brutal man.   And for all that he and the ton  were singing Caroline’s praises for the most wonderful actress she portrayed in the play.  She was a success!

However, the success became more of a burden and after having to kill a man in self defense, Caroline returned to Philadelphia, broken hearted that William who had seemed to come around to friendship, had totally snubbed her.

The story continues with clips of Caroline in America building a life without the man she loves and William in England raising the son he never knew he had.  It was both bittersweet, with hints of betrayal, suspense and longing and twists you never saw coming.

Bottom line:   This was a totally perfect read for me, with a steady pace and characters to fall in love with.  A really great read I highly recommend.

Marilyn Rondeau

Review: When You Wish by Alexandra Ivy


Publisher: Lyrical Press Publication Date: November 8, 2016

Sold by: Penguin Random House Publisher Services

ASIN: B01BRFLI5W      Rating:   5*


Sarah Cresswell leads a peaceful life—until she’s asked to help a handsome nobleman unearth a thief. Soon the unlikely duo is navigating London’s seamy side—and an undeniable attraction. But it’s a love that can never be, unless intervention comes from a most unexpected source…

This was really kind of a cute story with Sarah being the daughter of the infamous Devilish Dandy – a rascally jewel thief and being approached by the uptight Flawless Earl, to help him locate his mother’s highly prized diamond tiara and necklace.   Needless to say, the story was delivered with a fast pace and several secondary characters who I hope return to enliven this sweet romance.


Emma Cresswell would do anything to escape gossip-plagued London because of her relationship to the Devilish Dandy so she leaves to start anew as a lady’s companion. Emma Certainly didn’t expect to become attracted to her employer’s reckless and highly attractive nephew and did her best to stay out of his way.  However, Cedric, Lord of Hartshore, senses that beneath Emma’s conservative veneer is a heart as passionate as his own—and he’s determined to win it!  Again, we have another of the three daughters of the Devilish Dandy whom has come to realize that he owes his daughters a future and reliable life  which in his younger years had not been something he’d thought about.   Emma the daughter who is most embarrassed by him is aghast that he drops into her quiet life and starts making a nuisance of himself and may just upset her newly composed life story.


The most outrageous of all the Devilish Dandie’s daughter is Rachel Cresswell.  Rachel has come to Surrey primarily to make her presence known and to aggravate Lady Broswell who has snubbed and insulted Rachael for far too long!  Rachel wants revenge of a sort, but Anthony Clarke a handsome recluse inventor seems to thwart and talk her out of her most outrageous plots.   In the meantime, Rachel discovers that Lady Broswell has another daughter, one she keeps hidden in an old dowager house on her estate; the child Julia, just happens to be Rachel’s cousin – for Lady Broswell is truly her Aunt.

Bottom line:   All three of the these novella’s have one thing in common, all daughters of the Devilish Dandy and though wanted by the law, he disguises himself in every story to help out each one of his daughters.   The stories are all delightful and it’s wonderful to see each find the man of their dreams.   A really great ‘feel-good’ book of delightful stories.

Marilyn Rondeau