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

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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: The Ultimatum by Karen Robards

Kindle Edition, 368 pages                               Published June 13th 2017 by MIRA

Series:   The Guardian #1                                 Rating:  5*

Thief. Manipulator. Con artist. Call it what you will—Bianca St. Ives is the best in the business. Additionally, I shall also add that the author and creator of ULTIMATUM is a master story teller and gave me hours of entertainment in the listening of this audiobook.   And more importantly, I discovered it is Book ONE of the GUARDIAN Series and I fully intend to read the next two installments in the very near future.  

Growing up, Bianca St. Ives knew she was different from all her friends. Instead of playing hopscotch or combing her dolls’ hair, she was sent to study martial arts with sensei masters and dismantle explosives with special-ops retirees. Her father, a man with many identities,  prepped her well to carry on the family business. Now a striking beauty with fierce skills, the prodigy has surpassed the master.

Working with her father, she makes a living swindling con men out of money they stole. She also does things on her own terms. But her latest gig went FUBAR—if you count two hundred million dollars and top secret government documents going missing and seeing her father blown up during the mission. The problem now is, the US government doesn’t believe he’s really dead. They’ll stop at nothing to capture Richard St. Ives, a high-value target and someone who has been on most-wanted lists all over the world for over two decades.  The people don’t really know that much about using Bianca as bait but know she could lead them to Richard St. Ives.   With only a fellow criminal for backup and her life on the line, it’s up to Bianca to uncover the terrifying truth of who Richard St. Ives is and discover truths of her own life to set it right, before it’s too late. 

This was an absolute rush of entertainment pleasure with an amazing pace and suspense that kept me listening avidly way past my bedtime.   Great imagery and descriptive language of visualizing all the many tools of the trade and setting the scenes of each exploit.   Can’t wait to follow up on this series!!!

Marilyn Rondeau

Review: More Than Anything by Natasha Anders

Publish:  June 11th 2019 by Montlake Romance       ASIN: B07KXMVBR6

Series:    Broken Pieces #1                        Rating:  5*

In a nutshell –  I really, really loved this story!   The protagonists grew up as neighbors.  Tina Jenson was the pesky little sister of her brother Smith’s best buddy Harris Chapman.   Harris was a few years older, and may or may not have recognized the pure adoration and major crush Tina had on him.  After all in her mind Harris was the most handsomest man alive in spite of him having an identical twin brother.   

Tina was self conscious of her well developed body after her mother constantly found fault with her looks, leaving Tina in a state of very low self esteem. But regardless of her big boobs and big booty, Tina was determined to have a grand time at Harris and his twin brother Greyson’s 20th birthday celebration.  As it happened it turned out to be the best (Tina and Harris jumped into bed together) and the worst  (when she overhears crude and hateful comments the next morning) night of Tina’s life.

Ten years later, Tina’s life is a mess. THE night with Harris didn’t just hurt her feelings; it started a cascade of disappointment and soul searing heartbreak. Every time she bumps into Harris, her heart twists inside out. She is constantly trying to hate the very sight of him, yet still wants him.  Truthfully, she’s harboring a painful secret from their night together that she’s not ready to reveal.

Crossed signals, high-society whispers, and shame have kept Tina and Harris apart for years, but deep down, they’re hungry for each other and eager to write their own rules. The story combines huge betrayals and a huge emotional roller coaster of misunderstood comments, finger pointing and some very hot sensual laden scenes.  With so much history of failing and feeling like a failure, it was taking its toll of both on Tina and Harris who was trying his best to convince her she was truly an  amazing woman!  

Loved the pace, the prose and the emotion!  Great read.

Review: Fix Her Up by Tessa Bailey

Series:  (Hot and Hammered #1)    Rated:  5*

This was a brand new author for me and the first book of a new series by a New York times best selling author.  Love discovering new authors (even if they’ve been around for a while) and FIX HER UP was indeed a fun read for me. Just have to say, I loved the story, loved the characters, loved the humor, and it hit all the ahhh spots in a lovely romance!

Georgette “Georgie” Castle’s family runs the best home renovation business in town.  As the youngest sibling she picked balloons instead of blueprints and her family has never taken her seriously since. Georgie loves what she does; planning children’s birthday parties and making people laugh.  Although, she has plans to expand into a full entertainment venue; along with spicing up her wardrobe;  working on her personal appearance (hair shaping and waxing (?)); and putting herself on the market to stop day-dreaming of her longtime crush of Travis Ford!

Truth! Georgie hasn’t been on a date since, well, never.  Obviously she’s never been kissed either!  No one takes her seriously that’s for sure. But if people think she’s having a steamy love affair, they’ll acknowledge she’s not just the “little sister” who entertains in a clown suit. And who better to help demolish that image than the resident sports star and bad boy tabloid favorite?

After an injury ended his career Travis Ford was major league baseball’s hottest rookie. Now he’s flipping houses with Georgie’s brother to keep busy and trying to forget his glory days. He made a name for himself on and off the field and now he’s having to live with the jokes of his bad boy love-um and leave-um affairs. Then here comes Georgie, his best friend’s little sister, who is not a kid anymore. When she kicks his butt to get him out of his depression she proposes a wild scheme. They’ll pretend to date, to shock her family and help him land a new job—he agrees. It’s not like it’s real, but somewhere along the line, the girl Travis used to tease is now a funny, full-of-life woman and there’s nothing fake about how much he wants her.

Marilyn Rondeau

Review: The Favorite Daughter by Patti Callahan Henry

Paperback, 368 pages                                    ISBN13: 9780399583131

Published June 4th 2019 by Berkley Books     Rating: 5*.  

I am sorry to say that this was my first experience in reading this author’s work, but after this taste of her prose, visualization and emotional pull on my very soul, it will not be the last.  What a blessing it is to discover an author who can write such a moving and relatable tale with such insight into the aftermath of both the protagonists aching hearts.  

It was ten years ago, when Lena Donohue experienced a wedding-day betrayal so painful that she fled the small town of Watersend, South Carolina.   After coming to terms with broken heart she reinvented herself in New York City. Now as a freelance travel writer, the one place she rarely goes is home – until she learns of her dad’s failing health.

Returning to Watersend means seeing the sister she has avoided for a decade. But she can’t ignore her brother who runs the family’s Irish pub and has borne the burden of his sisters’ rift and the brunt of watching his father slowly succumb to the despicable disease of  Alzheimer’s.   Seeing firsthand how their father’s memories are slipping away, the siblings rush to preserve his life in stories and in photographs.  While doing the research into her father’s life and memories, some inaccuracies started to unfold which lead Lena to discover the truth of what set her apart from her best friend and sister even before the betrayal of the wedding day disaster.  

I admit to being easily and emotionally moved and truthfully I had to put this book down several times before I could continue reading because of the tears that came to my eyes.   However, I wouldn’t have missed the chance to experience this story and thank God that I had the opportunity to read and review!   Excellent and brilliant!

Marilyn Rondeau