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The Crimson Bed

By Loretta Proctor

Matador 2010  (Imprint of Troubador Publishing Ltd.)

Author site: http://www.lorettaproctor.co.uk/

Buy Link: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Crimson-Bed-Loretta-Proctor/dp/1848762887

Henry Winstone and his best friend, Frederick Ashton Thorpe, are artists during the Pre-Raphaelite movement of the Victorian era. Although Henry has pretty much forsaken the snobbish materialism of polite society, Fred isn’t quite so ready to give up his fastidious lifestyle. But even Henry must eat and has taken a commission to paint Eleanor Farnham’s portrait. Seeing the half finished portrait of Ellie at Henry’s studio, Fred is smitten and returns the next day to meet her. Deciding she’s everything he’s ever dreamed of in a woman, Fred pursues her and he and Ellie wed.

But Fred can’t let go of disgraceful events from his past and this leads him down a dark path of more shameful acts. Ellie too hides a painful past that affects her relationship with Fred. Their marriage deteriorates even more when Fred allows his mother to fire his jealousy with her vicious gossip of impropriety between Ellie and her godfather, Lord Percy Dillinger. When more appalling secrets come to light, not only is Ellie’s marriage in jeopardy, but her mental and physical health as well.

When I first began reading The Crimson Bed, I was hooked within the first few pages. Ms. Proctor is a highly gifted writer and knows exactly how to draw the reader in. At first I didn’t like any of the characters with the exception of Henry. But I couldn’t stop reading and I came to realize these characters were genuine, complicated and deeply flawed, which leant them a certain charm that was mesmerizing.

With such extraordinary characterizations, a gripping plot and well-researched historical backdrop, The Crimson Bed is an excellent work of fiction. This isn’t a gene romance, but there is a love story. The historical details of the Pre-Raphaelite movement and the artists are exceptional. This is a character driven novel with elements of romance, suspense and mystery. I was so emotionally invested in the lives of these characters, I laughed, I sobbed, and I bit my nails to the quick during the tenser moments. I dare anyone to read The Crimson Bed and not be so affected.

–Willow

 

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One True Place

By Margaret Cunningham

Black Lyon Publishing: Coming June 15, 2010

When her husband, successful Orthodontist Burkett Cowley, dies suddenly in his office one bright summer morning, True Cowley is stunned. But becoming an unexpected widow is only the beginning of unpleasant surprises. When it comes to light that Burkett’s gambling debts have left her near penniless, True takes advantage of a free burial plot in their mutual birth place of Belle Hill, Alabama. True left Belle Hill as a child of four, after her mother’s accidental drowning death, and has not been back since. But when she returns for her husband’s funeral, True finds herself inexplicably drawn to the town and the family secrets it harbors. Shortly after the funeral, True sells her Florida home and returns to Belle Hill for good.

She is soon befriended by eccentric octogenarian, Maisy Downey, and Maisy’s handsome- beyond-belief nephew, Jackson Bean. The pair promises to aide True in her quest to understand the mother she never knew. But in her search for her roots, True uncovers more questions that must be answered and issues she must come to terms with if she is to resolve the past and move ahead into the bright, happy future that is offered. 

I enjoyed this story tremendously. True Cowley is a flawed but loveable character who I could sympathize with and cheer for with each turn of the page. I loved the interaction between her and Jackson and the way the romance developed slowly and sweetly. I also enjoyed the touching relationship True shared with her grandchildren. Having also enjoyed the author’s debut novel, Lily in Bloom, I was excited to return to southern Alabama and reconnect with some of the characters from that first book. The author’s skillful descriptions, both of people and setting, seemed to transport me into this charming village filled with unusual people and beautiful flora.

Margaret Cunningham writes with humor and grace, weaving a tale that is filled with romance and surprises. One True Place offers its readers so many things — romance, mystery, and a lovely story of a woman’s quest to reconcile herself with her past. I recommend this story to anyone who enjoys a light, humorous, Southern love story.

— Honeybee

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WFTRWaiting for the Rain

M. Jean Pike

Champagne Press, 2007

ISBN 978 1 897445 21 1

Buy Link: http://www.amazon.com/Waiting-Rain-M-Jean-Pike/dp/1897445210/

 

This has been a rainy week in my world so it seemed the perfect time to settle in with Waiting for the Rain by M. Jean Pike. I wasn’t sure what to expect after reading the description on the back cover. The book had more depth and beauty than I expected. I found it to be a breath of fresh air in the paranormal romance genre. It is skillfully written, full of unique scenes, a few colorful characters, heartache, sacrifice, drama, suspense and of course a sexy leading man. In some ways the story reminded me of a modern, adult version of Tuck Everlasting. This book is a love story that offers hope but . . . is that hope medical, miracle or magic—readers will have to decide. If you like unpredictable books you will enjoy the many twists the author takes you on in this story.

The book is categorized as a paranormal romance novel and although it is a romance, it is not light, fluffy or full of silly sexual innuendos. The romance in Waiting for the Rain is believable and tasteful. The paranormal aspect will come upon readers slowly and quickly build into a beautiful tale. This book is easy to read in one sitting, but you better start it early in the day because you may not want to put it down until you get to the end. This is an emotional love story that shows the hope a sacrifice can offer one we love. Readers will go through a swing of emotions while reading of a love that sacrifices and heals but may not be destined to endure forever.

Readers will enjoy the way the author gets right to the heart of the story. It only took me a page or two to be hooked. The leading lady, twenty-eight year old Willow (Willy) is diagnosed with cancer. Before telling her husband, Tom, her sad news, he announces that he wants a divorce because he has found someone new. Having no desire for his pity, Willy refrains from telling him her medical news and instead agrees to the divorce and turns to the help of her friends. Realizing her time on earth may be coming to an end she desires to follow one of her dreams. Always an admirer of the majestic eagle, she wants to photograph one before she is too frail to do so. Her journey into the woods proves to be a life-altering trip. After experiencing car trouble and lack of cell phone reception, she meets Darby, a reclusive, gruff but handsome stranger with plenty of tragedy of his own. War veteran Darby lives in Baker’s Gully away from humanity with his faithful dog Lucky as his main companion.  The beautiful art work on the book cover gives a brief glimpse into the world that will captivate Willy who is strangely drawn to Baker’s Gully and can’t seem to rest until she finagles a way to stay in the abandoned rose covered cabin not far from Darby’s place.

Readers won’t be surprised when Willow and Darby begin to fall in love, but will be surprised by the direction their love takes them.  Both have lost a first love, neither is looking for a new love yet they are drawn to each other as in a fairy tale. If you believe in true love, if you believe miracles or magic can get you where you want to go, this book is for you.

The book is well written with accurate portrayals of the time period involved.  The main characters are fully developed and the scenes are beautifully described.  Through clear and vivid descriptions, readers will feel like they have been to Baker’s Gully before. I enjoyed getting to know Willow and I was fascinated by Darby. I appreciated the depth of both characters. Willow’s situation is easier to figure out but readers will have questions as they get to know Darby, his past and his beautiful property. Could Darby have the secret to the fountain of youth? Will he be able to help Willy? Will Willy let him? These are questions that come to mind for the reader. The author introduces to some colorful minor characters with interesting pasts and hearts of gold. Some readers may not approve of the lifestyles and choices of certain characters but will find them believable and true to form throughout the story. Readers will sense a heart of friendship in Sid, the loyalty of hard as nails lawyer Zoe, the jokester in off-color, disgruntled Toots, and the weakness in the loves of Tom and Marilyn.  The development of these characters allows the author to insert scenes written with humor, sarcasm, grief, romance, sacrifice, sorrow and love.

The ending of the book causes one to stop, think and review the story as a whole. If you are like me, you will reflect upon it for a time. Willow and Darby stayed with me for several days after I left Baker’s Gully. This is a thought-provoking story that reminds us that into every life some rain must fall. Rain is there for all of us. Our lives can be spent remembering the rain, waiting for the rain or embracing the rain. A choice is offered.

Jean Pike has given us a fresh, unique love story: A love for all times.  Waiting for the Rain is a keeper! I predict that readers will want to return to Baker’s Gully to read this story more than once.

–Pearl

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beyond_the_quietBeyond the Quiet
by Brenda Hill
Vanilla Heart Publishing, 2009
Buy Link: http://www.amazon.com/Beyond-Quiet-Brenda-Hill/dp/1935407082

 
Emotionally abused as a child, Lisa Montgomery learned at an early age to keep her feelings well hidden, believing that the only way to be loved and accepted was to be perfect. As an adult, she finds stability and happiness in Mac Montgomery. When Mac loses his battle with cancer after twenty-five years of marriage, forty-four year old Lisa is devastated. On her own for the first time in over two decades, she returns to her job as a real estate agent, desperate to escape the pain of losing her husband and determined to carve out a new life for herself. Just when things seem to be getting better, she receives a strange notice in the mail; a letter stating that Mac’s post office box is due for renewal. The couple had always received their mail through home delivery, so thinking it must be a mistake, Lisa heads to the post office to straighten it out. What she discovers is the beginning of a nightmare as Mac’s secret life of lies and betrayal begin to unravel.

This book took me on an emotional roller coaster ride; a ride that pulled me along and refused to let me go until it reached its final destination. I was gripped by Lisa’s situation from the opening scenes, and with each turn of the page I found myself making more of an emotional investment. Lisa deals with some tough issues that any woman can sympathize with: an alienated daughter, a friend’s betrayal, a husband’s deceit. The plot took many twists and turns as Lisa made her journey to self-discovery, learning how to love again, how to live again. I was right there in every scene, feeling her joy, her anguish, and her outrage.

Brenda Hill succeeded in creating a character that I truly cared about and even loved, and placed her in a setting that became as real to me as my own neighborhood. Beyond the Quiet is a love story, but more than that, it is a life story. It is the story of what it means to be a woman.

Honeybee

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shadowlake

 

Shadow Lake

By M. Jean Pike

Black Lyon, April 1, 2009

Contemporary Romance

ISBN: 978-1-934912-14-0

Author website: http://mjeanpike.freewebs.com

 

 

Finding time to read is a priority for me—after the hubby, the kids, the house, errands, work…ect. I’m sure every woman out there is in the same fix. Finding time to do anything just for us is nearly impossible and for all us avid readers with a huge TBR (to be read) pile, it can be a little frustrating. Once I start a really great book, it’s hard for me to put it down and then come back to it later. I want to read it straight through, but that’s not always possible, especially with the longer stories. That’s why finding those shorter, little gems is always a thrill. M.Jean Pike’s Shadow Lake is a true gem. It’s the perfect length for unwinding with at the end of a long day or relaxing with on the weekend. Best of all, although a stand-alone story, it’s the first in a series.

 

In the year since her husband’s death, Emma Beckman has tried hard to regain some control over her life. After paying the hospital bills and other debts, she’s broke and living in a horrible apartment in an even worse neighborhood. Several failed job attempts have only added to her frustration and feeling of insecurity. Determined to give it one more try before being forced to seek help from her controlling mother, Emma drives out to Shadow Lake to apply for a position in the camp store.

 

A disastrous interview with the owner, sexy Shane Lucy, sends an angry Emma scurrying. Although hesitant when Shane offers a second chance and a new beginning, Emma knows she has little choice. Settling into her new job and making friends with Shane’s teenaged son, Mick, Emma is filled with hope that she can finally put her painful past behind her and move on.

 

When his ex-wife walked out on him and Mick years before, Shane built a protective wall around his heart and he intends to keep it intact. But then he hadn’t counted on meeting someone like Emma. He tries to fight his desire for her beauty, but her vulnerability and caring personality cracks his protective shell as nothing else could. Unfortunately Emma’s heart is still bruised and although terribly attracted to Shane, she isn’t ready for another relationship.

 

Romance lovers of all genres will adore Shadow Lake. It’s a true romance, but delves into the deeper issues of family, divorce, betrayal, loss, and suicide. M. Jean Pike’s writing has a magical way of drawing the reader in and holding them there until the final page is turned. The skillful plotting, lush descriptions, and charming cast of characters are enchanting. When turning that last page, readers will be left with a wonderful sense of satisfaction and will eagerly look forward to the next in the series.

 

Willow

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