A Caryn Review: Enlightened (Enlightenment Series #3) by Joanna Chambers

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Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

*Happy sigh*

What a wonderful happy ending!  If you’ve read the first two books, you will be so satisfied with this culmination of David and Murdo’s story.  I’m a little sad to leave them behind, but there’s always another reread!

I also found that by the time I finished Enlightened, the titles of each book really started to have new meaning to me.  Provoked introduced David and Murdo not only to each other, but to a new type of attraction that neither had experienced before.  Beguiled showed them discovering new and increasingly fascinating aspects of each other, and letting down some of their internal barriers.  Enlightened found them realizing that not only was a relationship possible, but absolutely necessary, and a source of more happiness and contentment than they ever imagined.  The words, the titles, are a perfect description of the progression of their friendship and love.

The book opens with David still residing at Murdo’s estate at Laverock.  Their time there has been idyllic – a time of quiet companionship, physical exploration, growing mutual respect, and surprisingly an evolving business partnership.  Both men were aware of how fragile and fleeting this time was, but knew it had to come to an end eventually.  The end, however, came in an unexpected and somewhat tragic way when David’s old mentor and Elizabeth’s father, Patrick Chalmers, made a dying request:  for David to find Elizabeth and once again keep her safe from her abusive husband.  Doing so required David to travel to London, and quickly, and leave their protected life in a bubble behind.  Murdo had been putting off going to London for weeks, but he now had a good excuse to delay their parting, so he accompanied David.

London for David was just the place Elizabeth and Euan lived, a place for the job he had to do.  But London to Murdo was so much more – the site of his father’s political machinations and the mistakes that Murdo made trying to live up to his father’s expectations.  Also the place he hid a secret from David that he was afraid would tear them apart – the woman he was engaged to.

That is the only spoiler I will give in this review.  Once that little nugget of information was dropped, the pace of the book sped up and the resolution to their problems was striking, shocking, complete, and perfect.  I loved this description:

The knot of ropes that bound Murdo to his father was Gordian in its complexity and subtlety.  Tonight, Murdo had swept a sword through it, disdaining its cleverness.  Severing it with determination and without concern for the consequences.

With one swift stroke, all the pieces fell into place, and if there was sacrifice, it was worth it.  And they rode off into the Scottish highlands to live in peace and happiness.

I still love the cover art for the series, the models were perfect, but I wish they would have incorporated both models onto this final cover.  I thought Murdo deserved at least as much presence as David in this one…

Buy Links: Amazon US | Amazon UK

Book Details:

Kindle Edition, 226 pages
Published April 23rd 2017 by Joanna Chambers Books (first published May 6th 2014)
ASINB071RK71MR
Series Enlightenment #3

A Caryn Review: Beguiled (Enlightenment Series #2) by Joanna Chambers

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Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Don’t you just love it when a sequel is even better than the original?  Provoked may have been a good book, but Beguiled just blew me away.  I can’t wait to read the last installment, so forgive me if this review seems a little rushed!

Those of you who read my reviews know that I am a huge fan of characterization, and falling in love with the characters is what makes me fall in love with a book.  I am so deeply invested in David and Murdo now, that I am already grieving leaving them behind when I finish book three.  Both men were introduced to the reader and to each other in the first book, and there was a subdued type of adventure going on that introduced the city of Edinburg, as well as all of the secondary characters who reappear in Beguiled.  What makes this second book so appealing to me is the deeper delving into the backgrounds and motivations of both men, the beginnings of their awareness of something new and different, and a slow sea change in attitude.  So, the rest of this review will barely touch on plot!

In Provoked, Murdo was presented as a typical aristocrat, blissfully ignoring the plight of the common man, devoted to pursuing pleasure without the sticky moral trappings of 19th century societal expectations.  He didn’t exactly toy with David, but he made it clear in the very beginning that what he and David had was purely physical attraction.  Although he had been able to dally with men in a bit freer fashion than David because of his wealth and status, emotional attachment was not something he wanted or even considered the first few times they met.  Murdo did not feel that same sex activity was immoral, and also found nothing wrong with marrying a woman while continuing to have sex with men.  David had a much more conventional set of principles, so he not only felt sinful by “indulging” in sex with men, but felt there was something perverted about him that he wanted it.  He viewed marriage as a sacred bond before God, so he would not even consider marrying a woman, much less being unfaithful to her with a man.  Although their motives were different, the result they expected was the same:  sex without emotional involvement.

Beguiled occurs two years after the events of Provoked.  In those two years, both David and Murdo found themselves thinking back on their brief time together in ways that surprised them – with a great deal of yearning, and a sense of something important irretrievably lost.  Meeting again was therefore much more emotional on both sides, and the two years apart broke down barriers in both men.  In this book, David’s inner conscience was much less vehement about declaring him a pervert for wanting men, and he was able to see that there was more between them than just lust and physical release.  Murdo was willing to accept that he wanted more from David, and found himself sharing secrets he never intended to as he opened himself.

Against this impassioned background, the historical events and adventure played out with a great deal more meaning than that of Provoked.  I liked how once again ideas such as universal suffrage and rights of women were presented as incredibly radical (it is so good to live in 2017!), and our heroes – who by nature of their homosexuality were already outside the norm – were willing to embrace those notions as well.

The only thing I really didn’t like about the plot was at the end when David did not tell Murdo his plans for the rescue, which didn’t really make sense when in all other ways they had become so trusting of and necessary for each other.  Painting that decision as another of David’s self-sacrificing moments just didn’t sit quite right with me.  Of course, it created a perfect set up for the next book, but I wish the author could have found a way to achieve those ends without David keeping Murdo in the dark.

On to the final book!

Cover art is again superb.  The model’s intense expression and partially shadowed face are perfect for Murdo.  Even the font of the title is ideal for the picture and the story.

Buy Links: Amazon US | Amazon UK 

Book Details:

Kindle Edition, 226 pages
Published April 23rd 2017 by Joanna Chambers Books (first published December 24th 2013)
Original TitleBeguiled
ASINB0722GJFD4
SeriesEnlightenment #2

A Caryn Review: Provoked (Enlightenment Series #1) by Joanna Chambers

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Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

When this series was re-released by Joanna Chambers, I jumped at the chance to review them.  I read them initially a few years ago, and I remember that I thought this first book was only OK, although I ended up absolutely loving the rest of the series.  Rereading it, and knowing some of what was coming next, made me notice all of the ways the rest of the story arc was being set up in this book, that was not clear to me the first time around, and I have to say I enjoyed this book so much more for it!

The series starts with Provoked, told from the viewpoint of David Lauriston, in 1820s Edinburg, Scotland.  David is an advocate, a lawyer who deals with court cases, and at the beginning of the book he had just defended two men who were convicted of treason, hanged, and beheaded.  The case touched him deeply, as in its most basic form it represented the class struggle that was spreading widely throughout Britain during the Industrial Revolution.  David was the son of a farmer, and he and his family worked and sacrificed so that he could become educated as an advocate – though he could speak and act as a member of the middle class, he identified with the lower class.  Although the conviction for treason was almost a foregone conclusion, it was clear that the men were incited and betrayed by an agent provocateur – who got away scot free.

While David was working on getting drunk the night of the hangings, he met Murdo Balfour.  There was an instant physical attraction between the two men, and although David had consistently tried to deny that part of himself that wanted other men, he gave in because he needed the escape, and both men knew they wouldn’t meet again.  David was a little surprised to find Balfour giving him a  tenderness and connection that he had never encountered with a man before, and for the first time he felt regret upon walking away.

Weeks later, David was approached by Euan MacLennan, a man whose brother had also been involved in the case of treason, although his sentence was transport to the prison colonies in Australia rather than hanging.  Euan was determined to find Robert Lees, the agent provocateur he felt was responsible for leading the entire group of weavers into treason, and had a lead that brought him to Edinburg, but he needed David’s assistance to follow it.  David was absolutely opposed to revenge, but he felt responsible for Euan because he was unable to prevent his brother’s conviction, and he reluctantly agreed to help.

When the clues pointed to Lord Balfour, David was caught between his promise to Euan, and his growing certainty that Murdo was innocent.

This book really hit all of my buttons – the characters were complex, and faced with situations that challenged their beliefs.  The search for Lees really was only a backdrop to highlight the interaction and growing attraction between David and Murdo.  David had a very strict and upright moral code, was honest to a fault, but was generous and had a tendency to take on too much responsibility for all the wrongs he saw in the world.  He felt his attraction to men was not only wrong, but damning, and castigated himself every time he gave into temptation.  He didn’t know how to react to Murdo, who felt no shame at all in being with men, and seemed as helplessly drawn to David as David was to him.  Murdo’s point of view was not presented at all, but his responses and reactions to situations indicated a growing fascination with David and his opposing principles.

So even though I know what is coming – although I’ve forgotten many details – I can’t wait to dive into the next book.  I can’t wait to hear what Murdo thinks, and how the men will come together again!

I could not find who created the cover art, but it was perfect.  Granted, David is a red-head, but this model was ideal both in looks and expression, and is now how I think of him.  This cover is much improved over the previous one!

Buy Links: Amazon US | Amazon UK

Book Details:

ebook, 2nd edition, 202 pages
Published April 25th 2017 by Joanna Chambers (first published July 23rd 2013)
ASIN B071YJ254F
Edition Language English

Retro Review Tour for Enlightenment Series by Joanna Chambers

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Covers by Natasha Snow


Provoked (Enlightenment #1) 

 
Buy Links: Amazon US | Amazon UK  (FREE till June 17)
 

David Lauriston is struggling to build his reputation in Edinburgh’s privileged legal world. His humble origins are enough of a hurdle, never mind his recent decision to defend a group of weavers accused of treason, prompting speculation that he may harbour radical sympathies. The last thing he should be doing is agreeing to help the brother of one of the convicted weavers find the government agent who caused his brother’s downfall.

David’s personal life is no more successful. Tormented by his forbidden desires for other men, and the painful memories of the childhood friend he once loved, David tries his hardest to live a celibate existence, castigating himself whenever his resolve slips. 

But then—into David’s repressed and orderly world—bursts Lord Murdo Balfour.

Cynical, hedonistic and utterly unapologetic, Murdo could not be less like David. Whilst David refuses to entertain the prospect of entering into a loveless marriage for propriety’s sake, Murdo is determined to wed one day—and has no intention of giving up the company of other men when he does so. But as appalled as David is by Murdo’s unrepentant self-interest, he cannot resist the man’s sway.

Murdo tempts and provokes David in equal measure, distracting him from his promise to find the agent provocateur responsible for the weavers’ fate, and forcing him to acknowledge his physical desires.

But is Murdo more than a mere distraction? 

Is it possible he could be the very man David is looking for?

 


Beguiled (Enlightenment #2)



Buy Links: Amazon US | Amazon UK 
 

Two years after his last encounter with cynical nobleman Lord Murdo Balfour, David Lauriston accidentally meets him again in the heart of Edinburgh.

King George IV is about to make his first visit to Edinburgh and Murdo has been sent North by his politician father to represent his aristocratic family at the celebrations.

David and Murdo’s last parting was painful—and on Murdo’s part, bitter—but Murdo’s feelings seem to have mellowed in the intervening years. So much so, that he suggests to David that they enjoy each other’s company during Murdo’s stay in the capital.

Despite his initial reservations, David cannot put Murdo’s proposal from his mind, and soon find himself at Murdo’s door—and in his arms.

But other figures from David’s past are converging on the city, and as the pomp and ceremony of the King’s visit unfolds around them, David is drawn into a chain of events that will threaten everything: his career, his wellbeing, and the fragile bond that, despite David’s best intentions, is growing between him and Murdo.

 


Enlightened (Enlightenment #3) 



Buy Links: Amazon US | Amazon UK
 

David Lauriston has been recuperating at Lord Murdo Balfour’s Laverock estate for the last five months. At Laverock, he has regained his health and confidence and has found—with Murdo—more happiness and contentment than he has never known before.

David is all too aware that some day soon he will have to leave Laverock—and Murdo—and return to his legal practice in Edinburgh, just as Murdo will have to return to his life in London. But when David’s mentor, Patrick Chalmers, asks David to return to Edinburgh to visit him on his deathbed, it seems that day has come sooner than either David or Murdo would have wished.

Chalmers begs David to undertake one last piece of business for him: to secure the future of Chalmers’s daughter Elizabeth. But to carry out his old mentor’s wishes, David must travel to London, with Murdo.

No sooner have the two men arrived in the capital than they encounter Murdo’s ruthlessly manipulative father, who reveals a shocking secret that rocks David to his foundations. What’s more, when David discovers Elizabeth is facing far greater danger than even her father feared, he is determined to help her, no matter the cost to his own safety.

As the stakes rise, it is Murdo who must choose what he is prepared to sacrifice to keep David at his side, and ask whether there is any possibility of lasting happiness for men like them.

June 13 – Bike Book Reviews, MM Good Book Reviews
June 15 – Keysmash, The Librarian’s Corner
June 17 – Dog-Eared Daydreams, Padme’s Library
June 19 – Jessie G Books
June 21 – It’s About The Book, Sarandipity, Bayou Book Junkie, My Time Out Book Blog, Gay Book Reviews, Ellie Reads All The Books, My Fiction Nook, Urban Smoothie Read, Scattered Thoughts & Rogue Words, From Top To Bottom Reviews, Boy Meets Boy Reviews

 
Author Bio



Joanna Chambers always wanted to write. She spent over 20 years staring at blank sheets of paper and despairing of ever writing a single word. In between staring at blank sheets of paper, she studied law, met her husband and had two children. Whilst nursing her first child, she rediscovered her love of romance and found her muse. Joanna lives in Scotland with her family and finds time to write by eschewing sleep and popular culture.

 

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A Barb the Zany Old Lady Review: A Gathering Storm (Porthkennack #2) by Joanna Chambers

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Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5

My first story by Joanna Chambers, and I was struck by what a lovely romance she created with her two incredibly endearing main characters. Some of my reviewer friends have called it beautiful, but whatever synonym one uses, be it lovely, exquisite, superb, striking, or another term, it is certainly one well worth purchasing.

It’s the mid-1850s, and Nicholas Hearn is perfectly satisfied with his life as the land manager of the Roscarrock estate—at least that’s what he tells himself. His mother was Romany, and he’s the illegitimate son of the Roscarrock family patriarch, Godfrey Roscarrock. Godfrey is a tough old man, who refuses to acknowledge their relationship, though most people suspect that’s why Nick was hired there.

When he meets new neighbor, Sir Edward Fitzwilliam, he’s struck first by the man’s very rough tone of voice—a result of a childhood case of diphtheria—and second by the man’s very good looks. Sir Edward, aka Ward, comes to the local tavern seeking volunteers for an experiment for one of his scientific projects. He plans to speak to spirits who’ve passed away by recreating storm conditions present when he himself heard his twin brother speak to him just as he died. Ward convinces everyone, including himself, that his motives are scientific and altruistic, but we find later in the story that Nick’s perceptive insight is correct—Ward simply can’t let go of his twin and wants more time to converse with him before he can truly say good-bye.

The story is by no means simple, nor is it short, but it’s packed full of character development and relationship-building between the two MCs. The author delves deep into their hearts and then twines the two tightly together. And she managed to ensnare this reviewer along the way, as well.

I highly recommend this story of love, passion, heartbreak, and heartwarming triumph that ends with a very satisfying HEA. Though part of the Porthkennack series, it simply uses that setting but is a standalone novel. Don’t miss a chance to enjoy the depth of feeling this story evokes. It is beautiful, indeed.

~~~~

The cover by LC Chase features a handsome man in 19th Century dress standing before a landscape complete with cliffs and stormy sea—perfect for this story.

Sales Links

Riptide Publishing

Book Details:

ebook, 309 pages
Published April 17th 2017 by Riptide Publishing
ISBN 1626495602 (ISBN13: 9781626495609)
Edition LanguageEnglish
SeriesPorthkennack #2

In the Historical Spotlight: A Gathering Storm (Porthkennack #2) by Joanna Chambers (giveaway)

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A Gathering Storm (Porthkennack #2) by Joanna Chambers
R
iptide Publishing
Cover by: L.C. Chase

Read an  Excerpt/Buy It at Riptide Publishing

Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words is happy to host Joanna Chambers here today.  Welcome, Joanna!

📚

Hello, reader friends! I’m Joanna Chambers and this is the blog tour for A Gathering Storm, my new Cornwall-set historical romance. I’ll be sharing thoughts on my experience of writing about eccentric Victorian scientists, pragmatic Romany land stewards and unscrupulous mediums – come and comment to win a copy of the book and a $25 Riptide gift card!

About A Gathering Storm

When grief-stricken scientist Sir Edward Fitzwilliam provokes public scorn by defending a sham spiritualist, he’s forced to retreat to Porthkennack to lick his wounds. Ward’s reputation is in tatters, but he’s determined to continue the work he began after the death of his beloved brother. 

In Porthkennack, Ward meets Nicholas Hearn, land steward to the Roscarrock family. Ward becomes convinced that Nick, whose Romany mother was reportedly clairvoyant, is the perfect man to assist with his work. But Nick—who has reason to distrust the whims of wealthy men—is loath to agree. Until Fate steps in to lend a hand.

Despite Nick’s misgivings, he discovers that Ward is not the high-handed aristocrat he first thought. And when passion ignites between them, Nick learns there’s much more to love than the rushed, clandestine encounters he’s used to. Nevertheless, Nick’s sure that wealthy, educated Ward will never see him as an equal.

A storm is gathering, but with Nick’s self-doubts and Ward’s growing obsession, the fragile bond between the two men may not be strong enough to withstand it.

Now available from Riptide Publishing

About Porthkennack

Welcome to Porthkennack, a charming Cornish seaside town with a long and sometimes sinister history. Legend says King Arthur’s Black Knight built the fort on the headland here, and it’s a certainty that the town was founded on the proceeds of smuggling, piracy on the high seas, and the deliberate wrecking of cargo ships on the rocky shore. Nowadays it draws in the tourists with sunshine and surfing, but locals know that the ghosts of its Gothic past are never far below the surface.

This collaborative story world is brought to you by five award-winning, best-selling British LGBTQ romance authors: Alex BeecroftJoanna ChambersCharlie CochraneGarrett Leigh, and JL Merrow. Follow Porthkennack and its inhabitants through the centuries and through the full rainbow spectrum with historical and contemporary stand-alone titles.

Check out Porthkennack

About Joanna Chambers

Joanna Chambers always wanted to write. In between studying, finding a proper grown up job, getting married and having kids, she spent many hours staring at blank sheets of paper and chewing pens. That changed when she rediscovered her love of romance and found her muse. Joanna’s muse likes red wine, coffee and won’t let Joanna clean the house or watch television.

Connect with Joanna:

Giveaway

To celebrate the release of A Gathering Storm, one lucky winner will receive a $25 Riptide credit and a copy of A Gathering Storm! Leave a comment with your contact info to enter the contest. Entries close at midnight, Eastern time, on April 22, 2017. Contest is NOT restricted to U.S. entries. Thanks for following the tour, and don’t forget to leave your contact info!