Review: A Hero Born: by Jin Yong (Author), Anna Holmwood (Translator)

Rating: 5*

The epic Chinese classic and phenomenon published in the US for the first time! 

A fantastical generational saga and kung fu epic, Jin Yong’s A Hero Born is the classic novel of its time, stretching from the Song Empire (China 1200 AD) to the appearance of a warlord whose name will endure for eternity: Genghis Khan. 

After his father was murdered, Guo Jing and his mother fled to the plains and joined Genghis Khan and his people. Loyal, humble and driven, he learned all he could from the warlord and his army in hopes of one day joining them in their cause. But what Guo Jing doesn’t know is that he’s destined to battle an opponent that will challenge him in every way imaginable and with a connection to his past that no one envisioned.

With the help and guidance of his shifus, The Seven Heroes of the South, Guo Jing returns to China to face his foe and carry out his destiny. But in a land divided by treachery and war, betrayal and ambition, he’ll have to put his courage and knowledge to the test to survive.

*** At first I wasn’t sure I would finish this book for the first pages listed ALL the characters and their backgrounds right from the start.  And there seemed like hundreds!  [Pretty darn close too!]  And note these were not common names but ones I couldn’t pronounce so consequently, my reading was a bit slow at first until I really got into the story.  But once in I was HOOKED!   Even though the names were foreign, the action and pace moved extraordinarily fast.  And that is due to the excellent translation of the tome by Anna Holmwood.   It was an easy read with enormous momentum, and some of the key characters (of which some did not last long in this brutal world of fantasy and wonder)  added a plethora of emotions from horror and hate to caring and love.   

However, I did finish this book and there are a lot of words I can use to describe it – AWESOME – FABULOUS – UNFORGETTABLE – EMOTIONALLY STIRRING.   Loved the pace, the people, the historical strands of actual historical figures, and the wonder of the fantasy and of course, the descriptions of all the martial arts moves and action!

Highly Recommended!!!

Marilyn Rondeau * marilynsbookreviews.com

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Review: How to love a Duke in 10 Days by Kerrigan Byrne

I believe that HOW TO LOVE A DUKE IN 10 DAYS is going to be one of the 10 best books I’ve read in 2019!  It was truly a different and original storyline that is unique and fresh and to my mind extremely good.     Famous and brilliant, Lady Alexandra Lane, knows how to look out for herself, traveling the world over as a famed archeologist.  Nobody but her two closest friends know of the terror that haunts her, and yet, they do NOT know of the blackmailer who has been plaguing her for the last 7 years.   What she needs is a wealthy husband! 

Traveling to meet up with her two best friends, Lady Cecilia and Lady Francesca (who is about to be married to a man she hates) Alexandra meets up with a dashing man whom she assumes is the stable master after he claims a runaway stallion who Alexa had caught after he broke away from his handler. The man was striking and it was very unusual for Alexa to ever be attracted to a male but there was something about him….

Piers Atherton, the Duke of Redmayne is seeking revenge and his first step is to secure a bride.  Winning a ladies hand however, is not easy when that man comes with a reputation as the Terror of Torcliff.   When Alexandra enters his life his whole resolve changed, when she proposes marriage, he knows that she possesses dark secrets and like him, haunts her being.   Yet, her gentleness, sharp wit, independent nature, and incredible beauty awakens passion and desire within him. Feelings he’s never experienced before.  

***  The question is who is trying to kill him, or could it be who is trying to kill her?  After a few close calls, one can’t quite figure it out!  So many questions as to what is really going on, while passions are simmering and trust is fragile with so many secrets still to be told.  Who is the villain and who is the victim?  Can two hearts trust the other before betrayal tears them apart?   The suspense, sensualness, and romance was divine!   Highly recommended!

Marilyn Rondeau

Review: The Chocolate Maker’s Wife by Karen Brooks

Rosamond Tomkins had an almost perfect childhood until her grandmother died and the woman who was her mother reclaimed her to live with her new family and twisted husband.  In her new household she was treated no better than a servant and was mistreated and abused both by step-brothers and especially her step-father.   The day she was almost run over by a wealthy nobleman, Sir Everard Blithman, Rosamond thought she had been saved, but rather traded off one hell for another.  But for one caveat – her mother (bad as she was) made sure that the nobleman married Rosamond before he took her.

Sir Everard recognized not only Rosamonds unusual beauty but the undeniable fact she looked so much like his deceased daughter.  Sir Everard presided over a luxurious London chocolate house where wealthy and well-connected men go to be seen, exchange news, and indulge in the sweet and heady drink to which they have become addicted. It was a life of luxury and power that Rosamund had never imagined for herself, and she thrives in it, quickly becoming the most talked-about woman in society, desired and respected in equal measure. But when disaster strikes, Rosamund stands on the brink of losing all she possesses. Determined not to return to poverty, Rosamund makes a deal with the devil that could preserve her place in society—or bring her the greatest downfall.  She was set up by a madman, and only her husband’s greatest enemy could save her!  

Absolutely an enthralling historical story set against the decadent, chaotic backdrop of Restoration London, the plague, and the Great Fire.   The Chocolate Maker’s Wife is a tale of revenge and redemption, love and hope—and it is definitely a book I HIGHLY RECOMMEND and I absolutely LOVED IT!!!

Marilyn Rondeau

Review: An American Duchess by Caroline Fyffe –

Paperback, 348 pages      Publication: June 25th 2019 by Montlake Romance

ISBN13: 9781542091671

Rating: 4*

The rules of Victorian society are defied in  bestselling author Caroline Fyffe’s novel of romance, royalty, and a little revenge.

In Kent, England, the arrival of Beranger Northcott, Duke of Brightshire, causes quite a stir.  Berenger left home more than 15 years ago, never expecting to return. Never expecting that he was th legitimate heir to a dukedom he brings with him his new American bride, who isn’t quite what anyone expects!  By accepting the hand of her beloved, Emma Brinkman went from hardworking Colorado rancher to duchess. Now she’s expected to comport herself as nobility. Overnight. For Emma—stifled, homesick, and unable to shake the feeling she’s being watched—the metamorphosis is a challenge. And if Emma’s suspicions are correct, perhaps even a dangerous one.

Not one to deal in formality, Emma makes friends with the help and fortunately, for Emma she has found a trusted friend in the orphaned Charlotte, Brightshire’s scullery maid.   Charlotte has dreamt if only for a moment what it would be like to live a privileged  life with out the daily back breaking life she’s lived—if only for a moment. When one of the duke’s handsome cousins takes notice of Charlotte, the castle kitchen is set abuzz with speculation that she just might be swayed into being ruined.  

In navigating their two different stations, both Charlotte  and Emma alike will discover all they have in common—from secret fantasies to daring hearts to upending the rules of society. And that finding their places in the world—and love—is a dream that can come true.

Very charming story which I could have fallen in love with.  Just a bit of nitpicking here though that I thought a bit more editing of starting and stopping their stories would have made for a smoother read.  Otherwise, I truly liked this story.

Marilyn Rondeau

REVIEW: Rogue Most Wanted by Janna MacGregor

  • Print Length: 380 pages                                 ISBN: 1250295998
  • Publisher: St. Martin’s Paperbacks    Publication Date: June 25, 2019
  • Rating: 5*

Right from the description I had a feeling I was going to love this story – and I was right!  Lady Theodora Worth had grown up on a remote Scottish estate by her loving grandfather, actually a pretty idyllic childhood, until her grandfather began to show signs of forgetfulness and Theodora then fell into the reverse roll of caring for him.     As a Countess in her own right she had kept the estate of Ladykyrk in excellent shape and the many tenants happy – well nourished and thriving.   However when her grandfather died the new Duke challenges her claim to the title and Ladykyrk estate.  Her long time lawyer (who now threw his lot in with the ‘new’ duke) advised her she needed a husband.    Thea’s wise elderly neighbor with a thoroughly modern sensibility and a dashing great-nephew just might have  the answer to Thea’s prayers. Except Thea has no intention of marrying the first man she meets, even if he’s so handsome he makes her flesh tingle!  

Naturally, Lord William Cavensham would do most anything to keep his Aunt happy but after a very youthful heartbreaking experience he was gun-shy of ever putting his heart on the line again.  But, there was no denying his honor and to help this beautiful lady in need he would be her ‘best’ friend and help her in anyway he could!

With wonderful dialogs, characters, and l even a nasty new duke there were many moments during the reading of this tome that I sat back in pleasure to simply bask in the delightful story.  One of the more relaxed (even if I had rouble putting it down) books I’ve read this summer!

Marilyn Rondeau

Review: The Orphan’s Song by Lauren Kate

Hardcover, 336 pages                 Publication: June 25th 2019 by G.P. Putnam’s Sons

ISBN13: 9780735212572                 Rating:  5*

Venice (Italy) 

Based on the  intertwined fates of two Venetian orphans in Venice, 1736, fate brings Violetta and Mino together on the roof of the Hospital of the Incurables. They formed a connection that will change their lives forever. Both are orphans at the Incurables, dreaming of escape. But when the resident Maestro notices Violetta’s voice, she is selected for the Incurables’ world famous coro, and must sign an oath never to sing beyond its church doors.

Years before Violetta had seen and saved Mino after she witnessed his mother leaving him at the Incurables (where unwanted babies were left and brought up as orphans) Mino desperately wanted to find his mother and after his declaration of love ends in heartbreak, Mino flees the Incurables in search of his family. 

Known as the “city of masks,” Venice is full of secrets, and Mino is certain one will lead to his long-lost mother. Without him, the walls close in on Violetta and she begins a dangerous and forbidden nightlife, hoping her voice can secure her freedom. But neither finds what they are looking for, until a haunting memory Violetta has suppressed since childhood leads them to a shocking confrontation.

THE ORPHAN’S SONG is mesmerizing, emotional, and totally spellbinding.  The history of the city of Venice in that century made for such a compelling read.   The sensuality and romance was both thrilling, emotional, and exciting.  And the reveal of Mino’s mother was a thrilling twist.

Marilyn Rondeau

Review: Say No to The Duke by Eloisa James

ebook, 384 pages          Publication: June 25th 2019 by Avon

ISBN13: 9780062877840                    Series: The Wildes of Lindow Castle #4

Rating:  5*

Beautiful, accomplished and with a mind of her own, Lady Betsy Wilde’s first season was triumphant by any measure, and a duke has proposed!  Unfortunately, her wild nature being what it was she wants one great adventure before marriage!       Obviously no gentleman would agree to her scandalous plan—but Lord Jeremy Roden is no gentleman. He offers a wager. 

If she wins a billiards game, he’ll provide the breeches. If he wins – she is his, for one night.  Jeremy has suffered over what his actions during the war in America ended up losing his entire regiment.  Jeremy’s  latest show of unfeeling and drunkenness is not who he truly is.   But Jeremy realizes that one night with Betsy will never be enough? In the most important battle of his life, he’ll have to convince Betsy to say NO to the duke. 

Leave it to Ms, James to come up with another sensual and emotionally packed wonderful read.  Both the Duke and Jeremy were wonderful candidates for Betsy’s hand in marriage – I really loved them both and Betsy’s struggle in making the right decision was a really tough one!  

No hints here but all was not as it seemed to be an easy choice!   Just pick up this book and wrap yourself in romantic bliss – with a few chuckles along the way!

Marilyn Rondeau

Review: Montauk by Nicola Harrison

Montauk, Long Island, 1938. Once a humble fishing village and now it is serving as a playground for the New York City wealthy elite.  When her husband approached her with the plan to summer in Montauk, Beatrice Bordeaux was delighted thinking it would be just the ticket to help reignite the passion in her and Harry’s  marriage – that is until she understood that he would not be spending the weeks with her – just the weekends.  But, soon Harry had excuses that he wouldn’t be able to make the weekends because of being so busy pursuing other interests in the city.  

Raised as a country girl in Pennsylvania, Bea has never felt fully comfortable among these privileged women, whose days were devoted not to their children but to leisure activities and charities that seemingly benefit no one but themselves. Beatrice longs to be a mother herself, as well as a loving wife, but after five years of marriage she still remains childless while Harry is increasingly remote and distracted.  In spite of the  lavish parties at the Manor and the Yacht Club, Bea is lost and lonely and befriends the manor’s laundress whose work ethic and family life stir memories of who she once was. 

Exploring the town rather than joining the society women at the Manor Beatrice drifts further from the them and their preoccupations and closer toward Montauk’s natural beauty and community spirit.  Along the way, Bea finds herself drawn to a man nothing like her husband –stoic, plain spoken and enigmatic.  He  inspired her to face a haunting tragedy of her past and take a good look at what her future might hold.  

Time was racing and as the summer was coming to an end, Beatrice knew she had to make a choice to grasp what happiness she could.  However with a major hurricane blasting out to Long Island, would anyone survive to have a future.

Marilyn Rondeau

Review: REBEL by Beverly Jenkins

ebook, 384 pages Publication: May 28th 2019 by Avon

ISBN13: 9780062861696         Series:   Women Who Dare #1, The Le Veq Family #4

Rating:  5*

This compelling new series follows a Northern woman south in the chaotic aftermath of the Civil War and the historical references used in this novel were truly an eye opener in what and why the country became so divided.  Not only is this a very sensual and unusual love story but it’s one that needs to be read by all lovers of historical romance.  

Traveling to the South was both a very brave thing and not without risk for Valinda Lacey.  Her goal was a mission in the steamy heart of New Orleans to help the newly emancipated community survive and flourish. However, she soon discovers that here, freedom can also mean danger. When thugs destroy the school she has set up and then target her, Valinda runs for her life—and straight into the arms of Captain Drake LeVeq.

As an architect from an old New Orleans family, Drake has a deeply personal interest in rebuilding the city. Raised by strong women, he recognizes Valinda’s determination. And he can’t stop admiring—or wanting—her. But Valinda was spoken for and as much as Drake wanted it otherwise, he was too much of gentleman to pine after a betrothed woman.  

In this I had to admire both Valinda and Drake – Valinda was all that was good and pure and as much as she felt the undeniable pulse of passion for Drake, she had made a promise to her very dear friend.  The secondary characters were so very much a part of the whole and added such substance to the entire story. Not only was this a wonderful love story but it was also about family love and values which I found to be incredibly satisfying.

Marilyn Rondeau