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: The Long Call by Ann Cleeves

Hardcover, 384 pages Published September 3rd 2019 by Minotaur Books

ISBN 13: 9781250204448             Series :  Two Rivers #1    Setting: Devon, England 

In North Devon, England, Detective Matthew Venn stands outside the church as his father’s funeral takes place. Once loved and cherished by the Brethren, the day Matthew left the strict evangelical community he grew up in, he lost his family too. 

Now, as he turns and walks away again, he receives a call from one of his detectives. A body has been found on the beach nearby: a man with a tattoo of an albatross on his neck, stabbed to death.  The case calls Matthew back into the community he’d thought to leave behind, as deadly secrets hidden at its heart are revealed, and his past and present collide.

Matthew Venn is just a regular guy – a cop turned detective after putting in his time but also a very good person.  He was brought up in a strict religious community but had come to the conclusion early on that he just didn’t agree with all their rules and tenets.  Unfortunately, you either agreed or you were out and as much as it hurt he followed his heart.    Now with the new case and leads beginning to point him back to the Brethren he has to discover what if anything the murder and the mysterious kidnappings of young women had to do with one another.  

The pace of this was to my mind a bit on the slow side in the beginning but it sped up. I did find it quite interesting to follow all the loose ends and tiny bits of clues as Matthew and his team dug into the murder and then missing young women to discover how the connections started to knit together.  

The characterizations of the lead characters were beautifully molded together with compassion and love.  I particularly loved that Matthew and his husband were treated  as not an oddity, but as two people who genuinely cared for one another, even though the Brethren had to get a couple of snipes in along the way.  However, the writing and the story itself were both done exceptionally well and I love a great mystery so yes, I highly recommend this book. Good solid writing. 

Marilyn Rondeau

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: Prince Albert by A.N. Wilson

September 3, 2019            Rating:  4*

In actuality I was pretty amazed after reading this book at the intellect of Prince Albert and the role he played during the 20 short years he was married to Victoria.   His accomplishments, his energy and his vision for Britain was quite spectacular – in short, he worked tirelessly and accomplished an enormous transformation of Britain’s vibrant and extraordinary center of political, technological, scientific, and intellectual advancement.  Through Victoria, Albert and her German advisers pioneered the idea of the modern constitutional monarchy.

More importantly, when Albert was made Chancellor of the University of Cambridge in his late twenties [it was considered as purely an honorific role]. But within months, Albert proposed an extensive reorganization of university life which would eventually be adopted, making it possible to study science, languages, and modern history at British universities—a revolution in education that changed the world.  He was probably one of the hardest working royals that ever lived and as a composer, engineer, soldier, politician, linguist, and bibliophile, Prince Albert, more than any other royal, should be classified as a “genius.” 

All in all, while it was somewhat dry reading its was fascinating as well with all the details which the authored garnered in the volumes of correspondence Albert left behind.   When next I continue watching the Masterpiece series of VICTORIA I suspect I will be more fixated on the Prince rather than the Queen!

Marilyn Rondeau

Review: Discretion by Karina Halle

The Riviera is a most wondrous place – but for Sadie Reynolds, hosteling it by herself after discovering  her boyfriend had left after she uncovered his infidelities, she was anxious to return home.  One wrong turn put her life in jeopardy but never did she expect to be saved by the most handsome stranger who came to her rescue.  When she wakes up she is ensconced in a luxurious suite with views of the Mediterranean and her rescuer, France’s most eligible bachelor Olivier Dumont.  

Olivier, heir to the Dumont fashion fortune, is no stranger to scandal, but Sadie is unlike any woman he’s ever met. He’s promising Sadie something too: anything she wants.  Pulled into Olivier’s world Sadie is witness to wealth, glamour, and excess like she’s never imagined before.  She is also witness to the betrayals and wicked secrets of the entire Olivier family.

*** Ah, to wake up in Prince Charming’s bed and world – such a fairy tale come true and it began that way for Sadie, as Olivier seemed captivated by Sadie, but Sadie knew without a doubt that it couldn’t possibly last. However she was helplessly in love/lust with Olivier and come hell or high water, she wanted to stay by his side.

Sadie was a wonderful character fully fleshed out honest and caring, quite the opposite of all the high profile models and socialites Olivier had been sporting around, but with Sadie he recognized that she was a gem he wanted to keep to himself  which is where the title of the novel probably came from.  Not only that but he didn’t want his relatives/enemies to discover and ruin the first honest relationship he desired to keep – safe from the vultures who were out to destroy him.  

All in all, this was a great read and though I wasn’t thrilled with the ending I am hoping to see in the some really great karma and payback in subsequent volumes!

Marilyn Rondeau

Review: The Duke is But a Dream by Anna Bennett

NET GALLEY – July 30, 2019 (Debutante Diaries #2)

Rating: 5*

First of all I really loved this book.  It wasn’t unusual in nature as I have read others that have the same type if scenario where one of the protagonists gets bumped in the head and has amnesia – not knowing who they are!  Yes it is definitely a very effective storyline used in so many ways.  But author, Anna Bennett, did a masterful job of keeping the story fresh, sensual and totally endearing.

Not only had Miss Lily Hartley lost her memory and didn’t remember that what she did on the side; being a published author of an advice column for debutantes that was quite scandalous; her reputation would be ruined.   

Dressed as a lad her savior didn’t realize she was a woman till her hat got knocked off.  But seeing the hands of lady he saw no other choice than to bring her home where he and his sister could care for her.  Although whether she was a gentlewoman or simply a vagrant he couldn’t discern, but what he felt when she was washed up and clean was attraction; something he, the Duke of Stonebridge , hadn’t felt in some years.  

Naturally, not knowing whether Lily had family, a beau, or even a husband wasn’t the main concern.  Discovering who she was would be the primary problem to overcome, but the closer they came to uncovering her identity, the realization that he didn’t want to let her go was a problem they would both have to deal with.

Great fleshed out characters, scenarios, and sensuality.  The only problem I had with the book – it ended too soon!    If I had seen the gorgeous cover before hand, I would have picked it up just for the cover!!    Highly recommended!

Marilyn Rondeau 

Review: Bethlehem by Karen Kelly

Hardcover, 304 pages                 Published July 9th 2019 by St. Martin’s Press

ISBN13: 9781250201492      Setting:  Bethlehem, Pennsylvania(United States) 

Rating: 4*

Set during the gilded, glory days of Bethlehem, PA two women come together, not realizing that in a short time, the secrets of betrayal and temptations they’ve held and kept will one day bind them together in a way that neither could have ever expected.

Arriving at the grand ancestral home of her husband’s family, Joanna is hoping to fortify her cracking marriage. But what she finds is not what she expected: tragedy haunts the hallways, whispering of heartache and a past she never knew existed. And her mother-in-law Susannah, is not someone who makes Joanna feel welcome.  Too many women in a house that has seen too much tragedy and heartache and kept too many secrets.

It was touted as a historical based on the titans of the steel-boom era, namely Bethlehem Steel, but it turned out to be more than that in what I would describe as women’s fiction.  Joanna has had to give up the house and home she had lived in with her husband and two children to move into the families humongous ancestral home.  Living with her husband’s grandmother and mother who had held the title of mistress of that home.  It made Joanna feel somewhat non-essential.  Everything was taken care of by numerous family retainers who Joanna felt had more claim to the home than she would ever have.  

Feeling somewhat neglected Joanna fell into the habit of spending her time in the nearby cemetery  where she made friends with the quirky cemetery keepers and their enigmatic grandson.  She also discovered the tiny gravestone of baby “Hayes” whom she wanted to uncover the mystery of who he was and why no one had claimed it to give him a name.

*** The book started slowly and to be honest, it was something I struggled with, but slowly the story started to make more sense as the author kept up the past and present theme of Susannah’s and Joanna’s life.  Both would discover that their lives were similar but different.  The characters were well defined, the pace did pick up, and it was a pretty good summer read.   

Thanks to Net Galley for providing me the ARC of this book for an honest review.

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