Friday, July 31, 2009

REVIEW: Broken Wing by Judith James

Broken Wing is the debut novel by author Judith James, published in November 2008. It was my intention to read Broken Wing in late 2008 after it received so many raving reviews from romance readers starting with the glowing recommendation from KristieJ of Ramblings On Romance, but life got in the way and I never even got around to buying the book. It turns out I wasn't the only one, as orannia of Walkabout figured out, and she instituted a Broken Wing Reading Challenge, motivating me to finally read it.

By the way, there's an interesting post at The Good, The Bad, and The Unread titled Can A Blogger Make a Book? written by Wendy the SuperLibrarian about how Kristie may have single-handedly spurred the success of Broken Wing. Definitely food for thought.
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An historical romance set in the Napoleonic era, Broken Wing is an epic tale of adventure, survival and love. Lady Sarah Munroe and her half brother Ross, Earl of Huntington, have traveled from England to a Parisian brothel in order to find their young brother who has been lost to the family for the last five years. It turns out young Jamie has been living in the brothel, yet has survived the ordeal unscathed only because he was under the protection of the brothel's most prized prostitute, Gabriel St. Croix. Abandoned when he was a young child, Gabriel St. Croix's past is hauntingly disturbing. He was sold and traded, used as a catamite and later bound in servitude to the Parisian brothel. His sordid life has left him cold and distant, yet despite all of this, he was compelled to protect a Jamie from a similar fate, often at great cost to himself.

When Sarah and Ross are reunited with their young brother, they can hardly believe he is unharmed. When they explain to Jamie that they will be taking him home, Jamie refuses to go anywhere without Gabriel. Sarah and Ross are incredibly grateful for Gabriel's care and protection of Jamie, so while Ross is reluctant to bring a prostitute to live in his home, Sarah convinces him that it would soothe Jamie to have his protector at his side as he adjusts to a normal life again. Ross and Sarah establish a employment contract with Gabriel for one year of service as a companion to Jamie, an offer that Gabriel does not hesitate to accept, knowing it is a rare opportunity for a life finally free of violence, abuse and prostitution. Perhaps he can actually be at peace.

Gabriel is welcomed in Sarah and Ross' home like family, but Gabriel remains cold and distant. Obviously his experiences so far in life have left him with little, if any, concept of what it's like to belong with someone . . . family, friend, or lover. With patience and through simple companionship, Sarah teaches, or rather, shows Gabriel these things not just because she feels compelled to heal him, but because being with Gabriel, sharing life's simple beauties simply comes naturally to her. She doesn't set out to make him forget his past or make him forgive those who abused him. Rather she accepts him for the man he is and only wishes to show him that he can still have family, friendship and love. While Sarah is not unaffected by Gabriel's inherent sensuality, she first and foremost recognizes a man who could use a friend. In time, and through innocent friendship, Gabriel learns about friendship, acceptance and eventually they fall in love.

At about the halfway mark of the novel, Gabriel and Sarah separate for what they hope is only six months, but an unfortunate series of events tears them apart for much longer. During their separation, Gabriel is subjected to more atrocities. Some he commits himself in order to stay alive, and some that are not only cruel in their own nature, but doubly cruel because it seems he is destined to repeat living a life of abuse and deviant servitude. Thankfully he has warm, loving memories of Sarah's companionship and affection and he has befriended a Frenchman during this time of separation, both giving him the strength and courage to persevere yet again, and this time to hopefully do what he must to beat his demons once and for all. It is difficult, however, after living the life he has to believe oneself worthy of things so pure such as unconditional acceptance, friendship, and love. He never forgets what Sarah has given him, but he struggles to once again find himself worthy of such things from her--a struggle that costs them both dearly.

Broken Wing has a larger than life feel to it, in part, I think, because of the time span of the story and in part to wide array of settings at which the story takes place. Unlike most romance novels that take place over a few short months or even days, Broken Wing takes place over four years which in addition to making the romance part that much more realistic, it also lends a superb epic tone to the novel. There are also enough flashbacks and references to the past that make the novel feel like it spans a lifetime.

The story also takes the reader to the most amazing albeit frightening places. From a brothel in Paris to a stately manor along the ragged coast of England; from a privateer's ship sailing stormy seas to cities along the Barbary coast; from rebel fighting in the deserts of northern Africa to the beautiful countryside of Morocco and back again to Paris and London. All with amazing attention to historical and descriptive detail right down to the food, clothing, and weapons. Author Judith James certainly paints a vivid picture with her words.

Broken Wing is a most beautiful and memorable historical romance. It's not a simple story of romance and happily ever after. It chronicles the dark adventures of Gabriel St. Croix, who despite living a life of travesty after travesty, finds true, unconditional love and acceptance in an amazing woman, Lady Sarah Munroe, whose words and affections nurture him in ways he never imagined. Broken Wing is an achingly beautiful, epic romantic tale of survival and love.

Look for Judith James' second novel, Highland Rebel, in September 2009.

You can visit author Judith James at her website

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

REVIEW: Stolen Fury by Elisabeth Naughton

Stolen Fury is author Elisabeth Naughton's debut novel, and first in the Stolen trilogy--a romantic suspense trilogy immersed in archaeological treasures and those who seek them.

Archaeologist Dr. Lisa Maxwell has spent well over a decade researching the existence and possible whereabouts of three ancient marble reliefs based on the three Furies in Greek mythology. For strong personal reasons, Lisa Maxwell has developed a dangerous obsession with finding these elusive artifacts. At the opening of Stolen Fury, Lisa Maxwell narrowly escape with her life after having descended into a deep cave on Jamaica where she has found Alecto, one of the three Furies.

Before continuing with her quest to secure the other two Furies, Megaera and Tisiphone, Dr. Lisa Maxwell proceeds to Milan, Italy where she gives a presentation at the University there. It is at this presentation where Lisa meets Rafael "Garcia" when he rescues her, so to speak, from unwelcome advances from one of her colleagues. Rafael invites her out for a drink and one thing leads to another and they are in Lisa's hotel room about to indulge in a single night of passion. Before they consummate their passion, however, Rafael drugs Lisa and steals Alecto from her hotel safe.

Lisa wakes up furious at herself for giving in to Rafe's seduction and even more so for allowing Alecto to be stolen from her after all she's done to get her hands on it. Relentless in her determination to secure all three Furies, Lisa enlists her twin brother's expertise as a Chicago detective to determine Rafe's true identity and whereabouts. She finds out that Rafe "Garcia" is art thief Rafael Sullivan. She shows up at his Florida doorstep within a week of their encounter demanding he return Alecto to her. Of course, he doesn't give up the artifact for he has his own reasons for wanting the Furies. However, he acknowledges Lisa's drive and skill, so he convinces her to team up with him in their search for the other two artifacts. Both are reluctant to join forces, but she has the archaeological knowledge and skills and he has the resources, and together they're more likely to unearth the remaining Furies before someone else does, and there are definitely other factions out for the Furies. Both Lisa and Rafe think they will figure out a way to dump the other once they've acquired all three artifacts. What neither one don't count on, however, is falling in love along the way.

Stolen Fury is a smart and sassy romantic suspense with action and adventure, a complex plot and characters full of passion and depth. The adventure begins on the very first pages and is non stop until the very end. From dangerous descents into caves to car chases to dodging bullets to dives into deep blue holes in the Caribbean, the adventure never seemed contrived and always advanced the plot. The plot surrounding the competition trying to take out Lisa and Rafe and find the Furies themselves was complicated, but not so much that it's difficult to follow, and added surprise plot twists and character developments to an already exciting suspense. In addition, the cast of secondary characters that included Lisa's family, particularly her twin brother; Rafe's family including his mother, younger delinquent brother, and his ex-wife really added extra depth and humanity to the story, making the Stolen Fury that much more memorable.

At first glance, I was expecting the main characters Dr. Lisa Maxwell and Rafe Sullivan to be casted to stereotypical roles; the over ambitious archaeologist out to prove herself and the ruthless, conniving thief who would stop at nothing from achieving his fortune. They join efforts and fall in love, the end. On the contrary, the author surprised and delighted me with these two characters. Their motives for hunting for the three Furies are not at all what I expected and not what each expected of the other, either. I loved discovering the hidden depths of character at the same pace that they each learn about each other as well. Learning about Lisa and Rafe's pasts, their families, and what drives their ambitions added to the mystery and suspense of the plot and at the same time softened their tough treasure hunter exteriors. Not only that, but their motives and agendas sort of shift as the story progresses, leading to some very tender scenes and character revelations.

Oftentimes a novel of romantic suspense is either character driven or plot driven, yet in the case of Stolen Fury, the author successfully accomplishes both. Naughton has written a tale that expertly intertwines the personal journeys and the love story of the main characters with the action plot that the two become one and the end result is an extremely entertaining and rewarding novel.

Brimming with real adventure and suspense, passionate characters, lively dialogue, and a tender romance, Stolen Fury has easily become one of my favorite reads this year.


What other readers are saying about Stolen Fury:

Casee at Book Binge
Daniel S. Boucher at The Novel Blog Check it out... from a man's perspective!

Stolen Heat, the second novel in Elisabeth Naughton's Stolen trilogy hit bookshelves just yesterday and I can barely wait to read it.

Look for the third installment in the trilogy, Stolen Seduction in January 2010.

You can visit the Elisabeth Naughton at her website at and her blog at .

Be sure to check out the amazing contest Elisabeth Naughton is running through August 15, 2009.

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Saturday, July 25, 2009

It's Christmas In July II

Christmas is five months from today, and since Hanukkah begins at sundown on December 11, 2009, it's even less than five months away. I can barely believe it, but I bought my first Christmas gift this week! Truthfully, I wasn't intentionally holiday shopping, but I came across a great deal on a great gift for my husband so I pounced on it. I remembered that I did a little Christmas in July book giveaway last year, so I thought it would be fun to do it again this year. 

There are a lot of generous giveaways out there for new releases and brand new books, but well, times are tough and I'm trying to stick to a reasonable book budget, so I'm only going to be giving away books from my own bookshelf this time. These are books that I may or may not have read and are either gently used, accidental doubles, or ARCs (Advanced Reader Copies) for books that were published in 2008 or earlier. Some of them are hand me downs from my friend Kate who gets lots of books from authors and publishers and she occasionally, and very generously, passes them on to me. A couple of the books that are ARCs have plain card stock covers, not the glossy colored cover art. I thought I'd mention that just in case you're a cover art junkie. ;)

I'm going to give three winners up to two books each, because I'm fairly certain two paperbacks fit into a medium padded envelope and can be mailed first class for about three bucks. All you have to do is leave a comment here in this post by Saturday, August 1, 2009 12 pm EST and I'll use the to select the winners. 

Open to US and Canada addresses only and obviously you don't have to celebrate Christmas or Hanukkah or any other holiday to participate. 

The books on my giveaway shelf can be found on my Shelfari prize shelf. Just click on the link. 

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

In Blueberry Fields

Blueberry season is finally here in our corner of the world. 

My family loves blueberries. They're sweet, delicious and they're so incredibly good for you, too. What's not to love about these little blue beauties?

Yesterday, my daughters and I headed to our favorite local farm to pick some blueberries. 

Making our way to the blueberry field.

Let's start here and pick our way down this whole row . . .

Filling up the basket. 

An official "field" test. 

Luckily they passed the test, so we're bringing them home.  

Of course, the lovely outing isn't complete until there's some sisterly displays of . . . affection?

Definitely sisterly love and affection.  ;) 

Time to go home and eat our fill of blueberries. 

Blueberries by the handful . . . on cereal . . . in pancakes . . . in smoothies . . . and baked into some delicious blueberry treat. Our family favorite is Blueberry Pound Cake

The recipe is from the July 1998 issue of CookingLight magazine. I can't believe I've been making this cake for 11 years!  

Monday, July 13, 2009

REVIEW: Bound By Your Touch by Meredith Duran

Last summer I read and loved the historical romance The Duke of Shadows, by debut author Meredith Duran. Since then, I've been highly anticipating the release of Bound By Your Touch, which hit bookshelves on June 30, 2009. Although not as poignant and emotionally gripping as The Duke of Shadows, Bound By Your Touch is a unique and compelling story with plot of mystery and romance, and engaging characters that kept me intrigued from beginning to end.

It's 1884, and Miss Lydia Boyce is eldest of three daughters in the Boyce family and is left assuming the unofficial role of head of the household, as her mother is long dead and her father, well known Egyptologist Henry Boyce, spends his time in Egypt as an artifacts dealer in order to fund his archaeological research there. Lydia is a learned scientist and scholar herself, supporting her father's research and funding in Regency England while also managing the household affairs that include being steward for her two younger sisters. Considered a spinster at 26 years old and after having been jilted by the man she loved when he ends up marrying her younger sister instead, Lydia has accepted, if not embraced, the fact at she will most likely remain unwed. Fortunately for her, she has her interests in science to keep her happily preoccupied.

Lord James Durham, the Viscount of Sanburne is a dilettante and a nuisance. He's a rich, spoiled, daft kind of fellow who pretty much spends all his time drinking and partying with his friends and doing whatever he can to anger and disgrace his father. James' father is the Earl of Mooreland and it is obvious to everyone that James is not only a disappointment to the Earl, but also a huge thorn in his side. Based on this brief character profile, James Durham doesn't sound like a very like-able character at all, yet there is an intelligence and kindness about him that makes the reader wonder if there are hidden reasons behind his behavior. Of course there are reasons and very real and severe reasons at that, and the author slowly reveals James' true character as he and Lydia get to know, understand, and inevitably love each other.

Lydia and James first cross paths when he so rudely interrupts and disrupts her presentation, at which she is trying to secure support and financial funding for her father's work. James barges into the auditorium, stealing Lydia's audience while drawing attention to his fantastic new archaeological find. James does this solely in a one-up-manship against his father, but in the end, his artifact is denounced as a fraud on the spot by none other than Lydia herself. This "confrontation" sets the tone of their relationship throughout the rest of the story in which they spend most of the time in each other's company verbally sparring with one another. It's not like they argue just to be antagonistic towards each other. It's more that they are often of differing opinions or perceptions of each other. Their frustration with trying to understand the other exacerbates the tension in their conversations and in their relationship as a whole.

When James confronts his supplier, he learns that fraudulent artifacts are being shipped from Egypt and in fact, the evidence indicates the source of the fakes to be Henry Boyce. Lydia is adamant about her father's integrity and sets out to prove his innocence at any cost. Lydia and James share information and resources as they try to uncover the truth about the source of the frauds. By the end of the story they do that, and so much more. Despite their near constant bickering when they are in each other's company, they are drawn to the excitement and level of intelligence and wit they share. Upon each meeting, Lydia and James not only develop a deeper understanding and respect for each other, but also for themselves.

The following passage is a great example of a typical exchange between Lydia and James. They learn so much about each other, yet still have this wall of understanding--or should I say misunderstanding-- between them that frustratingly doesn't break down.

"And if I asked about my own character? Oh, I know you've decided I'm paranoid. But would the scientist share with me her other observations?"
The curiosity in his voice seemed genuine. But why would he care what she thought of him? She ran an anxious finger over the door latch. [ . . . ]

"You're a butterfly," she said. "Aimless by nature, useless by choice, and highly decorative. Annoying, when you flap into someone's face."
To her irritation, he laughed. Surely there was no greater nuisance than a man who did not mind being insulted! What weapon could a woman employ against him?
"A butterfly? All right, Miss Boyce, well done. Yes, I rather like that. A butterfly, pinned in a very nice glass cage."

A few more stinging words between them and Lydia changes her analogy and says he's "not a butterfly, but a billiard ball. You crash about in the most aimless way--". James responds by acknowledging that, yes, Lydia clearly disapproves of him. When she's not kissing him, that is. It's quite an amusing and telling scene. Lydia speaks her mind, flinging several stinging, yet intelligent remarks his way, getting more and more ruffled by the minute, and while James does retaliate with a few biting remarks of his own, he maintains a calmness and amusement of Lydia that clearly shows his approval of her.

Bound By Your Touch is wonderfully written and the realistic, yet also very unique premise and characters were all very engaging. The development and treatment of the relationship between Miss Lydia Boyce and the Viscount James Sanburne was equally captivating and satisfying. Their conversations were often times amusing, sometimes moving and always intelligent. It was a joy to watch Lydia and James slowly come to understand each other, learn about themselves, teach other lessons on family, love, and forgiveness, and see that they are really more alike than not and that they indeed are a perfect match.


You can visit author Meredith Duran at her website .

Meredith's next novel is Written On Your Skin and comes out on July 28, 2009.