A MelanieM Review:Love in Every Season by Charlie Cochrane

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Rating: 4 stars out of 5

Four seasons, four stories, one connection – finding love.
Two men who hate Valentine’s Day discover they might have been wrong.
A Paralympic swimmer gets an unusual incentive to win gold.
Love and lust flourish under desert skies, but nature’s cruel.
Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night gets a new twist.

When Charlie Cochrane wants to deliver a collection of stories, I listen and am there because I just love this author’s writing no matter what era her characters are visiting or narrative the story thread is taking.  Here in Love in Every Season, the reader is given a true mixture so there is something for everyone.  A little bit of Shakespeare mixed with steampunk!  Love under the desert skies with a archeological dig in the past.  A mere jog back to the 2012 London Olympics and also a story firmly with its foundation in the near  present.

While I enjoyed them all, three were more firmly my favorites. And  while I really didn’t understand why each story was exactly given the season it was located under.  The first was Spring but the men and the story was focused on their anti Valentine (February) sentiments.  So for me Spring was a stretch.  So I pretty much ignored the season, unless Charlie was talking about fresh new starts which then yes indeed, that worked.

Here are the stories in the order they are presented in the book:

Spring:

Horns and Halos:  Rating: 4 stars out of 5

February 14, 2011.  Both  Jame and Alex are attending a Workshop on (as best I could figure out) Human Resources, LGBT, Recruiting, and Rights for their respective schools/or school districts in England.  Not sure how it works over there being from the US, but as I said I was still trying to figure that part out from their conversations.  They end up as workshop partners and the electricity flows while they try to see if each is gay.  The chemistry is cute and the story an adorable HFN as is all the tales here.  Both are anti Valentine and that gets worked into this and resolved as well.

Autumn

Sand: Rating: 4.25 stars out of 5

The time frame is nebulous as is the exact location but you can certainly lock it down slightly  by certain references that Charlie Cochrane is so great at.  We’re pre WWI somewhere in a region that used to be part of the Seleucid Empire, loads of sand obviously  Poor Charles Cusiter has been sent along as a companion/babysitter to grown  manchild and heir Bernard Mottram to whom the female sex has proven an magnetic attraction he cannot stay away from.  It’s been the cause of many scandals and his wealthy mother is tired of it.   Bernard (and Charles as his guard dog  against the fairer sex) has traveled to an archaeology dig in Dahmalia run by Dr. Andrew Parks and his male assistant Yaseen, a place void of women.  Something Bernard’s mother made sure of prior to sending her son there.

Of course, there are slight complications.  While Bernard is dispirited about the lack of women, Charlies fears he has to hide his immediate attraction to Andrew,  Charlies’ homosexuality and the manner in which it is handled here is distinct to that era and “certain types” of gentlemen aboard.  It shows in the language the author uses and the references within the story.   That would include mentions of Mrs. Jellyby, a character in the novel Bleak House (1852–53) by Charles Dickens and Daphne Du Maurier who wrote in the early 1900’s.

The relationship proceeds slowly and only a dramatic event lets the men drop their guards fully.  It ends as only it could, a HFN, with a slight bittersweet knowledge from them (and from us) that they will stay there for only as long as the British are still welcome.  Something we know will be ending soon.  So yes, I guess you could say it is the Autumn of the Empire here. That’s my application for Autumn here.

Summer

Tumble Turn:  5 stars out of 5

Yes, this is my favorite story.  It starts out with the childhood friendship of Matty White and Ben Edwards, who has S9 CP, that would be Cerebral Palsy.  The first chapter is titled Nomination July 2005.  That’s when London is nominated as a possible location for the Olympics in 2012.  The boys desperately want London to win (and of course we know it does).    Ben wants to participate in the Olympics, no matter what anyone says…including the bitter somewhat unpleasant Mrs.White, Matty’s divorced mother. As the story moves forward, the boys age, move apart physically into college and apart in friendship. All the while Ben trains as a Paralympic Swimmer, moving closer to achieving his goals.  No Matty is not the romantic interest here sorry.  But there is one.  For a while I thought he was too.  Nope.  But Matty is the connection.

But the romance that does play out is sweet, heartwarming, authentic, and real.  So too is Ben swimming towards his long held goals.

Everything about this story just connected with me.  Ben’s family, the boyfriend, and the Olympics.  Loved it.

Summer was easy to apply to this story. Summer Olympics.  Why of course!

Winter

What You Will (A Shakespeare and Steampunk fusion): Rating 3 stars out of 5

Charlie Cochrane’s version of Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night given a steampunk twist with airships versus sailing ships that wreck.  A m/m romance with Captain Antonio and the airship-wrecked Roderigo who is also looking for his twin sister (and all the usual twists you find within the story), excerpt that Olivia had to go off and find another love. Somehow I never connected with any of the characters and the romance here.  I did with the original version, mind you.  But here, something, perhaps, the language itself is lacking.  Neat idea though..  Just didn’t work for me.

Cover art is a bit innocuous for a Charlie Cochrane story.  Bland but I’m not sure what you could do for such a wide variety of stories.  But I would never have chosen this..

Sales Links:  Amazon Precorder

Book Details:

Kindle Edition, 158 pages
Expected publication: July 22nd 2019 by The Right Chair Press
ASINB07SFYTPZ9

A Stella Review:The Reluctant Husband (Goddess-Blessed #2) by Eliot Grayson

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RATING 4,5 out of 5 stars

Disowned, disgraced, and with nowhere to turn, Tom Drake is willing to barter anything — even himself — for a reprieve from starvation and despair. Years spent lying to protect his secrets have left him longing for someone to value him, even if it’s only for his body and the blessing of his patron goddess.
Mal Leighton’s cousin and heir is dying. Only a miracle can save him — and if a miracle doesn’t appear, Mal’s damn well going to create one. Marrying Tom for his blessing is his last desperate hope to preserve his family. And if Tom happens to be as irresistibly seductive as he is untrustworthy? Well, Mal can focus on more than one goal at a time.
Tom doesn’t fall in love, and Mal knows better than to believe he’s the exception. But when Tom’s blessing doesn’t provide the quick cure they’d hoped, it’s clear that the goddess expects them to have a marriage in more than name. To save Mal’s family and find their own happiness, they will both need to sacrifice their pride and risk their hearts.

I was a little dubious when I read the blurb of the second installment in the Goddess Blessed series, it’s not easy to fall in love with a main character you already met in the first book and deeply despised. To find Tom here in The Reluctant Husband was a shock. Then I started the reading and saw how a great job the autor did at redime this young man. I soon realized Tom was not at all the one I thought I knew, sure, he did a lot of mistakes and he’s now in need of some help, even if he’s not ready to accept it.  When Mal discovered who Tom really was, he knew the other man was his only chance at saving the life of his dear cousin.

What both of them ignored was the power of the fake wedding they were taking so ligh, was so strong they will unavoidable fall in love.

The Reluctant Husband was a lovely novel, I quickly finished it and it was too soon, I found the MCs interesting and well mixed together, the double POV help me understand better their stubborn minds and hearts.

A short note on the writing style, I said in the review of The Replacement Husband I usually had a hard time with this author, not this time,  the reading flew to me very easily. Not once I was lost, on the contrary I devoured it every word.

I really hope the author will give me more in this series.

The cover art by Fiona Jayde is lovely, I like it a lot.

SALE LINKS  Amazon

BOOK DETAILS

Kindle Edition

Expected publication: June 7th 2019 by Smoking Teacup Books

ASIN B07RWJVB3N

Edition Language English

A Lucy Pre release Review :The Reluctant Husband (Goddess-Blessed #2) by Eliot Grayson

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Rating: 4.25 stars out of 5

Disowned, disgraced, and with nowhere to turn, Tom Drake is willing to barter anything — even himself — for a reprieve from starvation and despair. Years spent lying to protect his secrets have left him longing for someone to value him, even if it’s only for his body and the blessing of his patron goddess.

Mal Leighton’s cousin and heir is dying. Only a miracle can save him — and if a miracle doesn’t appear, Mal’s damn well going to create one. Marrying Tom for his blessing is his last desperate hope to preserve his family. And if Tom happens to be as irresistibly seductive as he is untrustworthy? Well, Mal can focus on more than one goal at a time.

Tom doesn’t fall in love, and Mal knows better than to believe he’s the exception. But when Tom’s blessing doesn’t provide the quick cure they’d hoped, it’s clear that the goddess expects them to have a marriage in more than name. To save Mal’s family and find their own happiness, they will both need to sacrifice their pride and risk their hearts.

This is the second book of the Goddess Blessed series, which is Regency with Goddess flair in a time where all marriage is the same – whether same or opposite sex – except for the goddess blessed, who bring all good luck to those they love.  In the first book, The Replacement Husband, Tom is a loathsome, awful person and I came into this book fully prepared to keep hating him because how could you not?

The book begins by showing where his behavior has taken Tom – he’s been thrown out of the family, disowned, broke and friendless. His secret, that he has been Goddess marked, is one even his brother doesn’t know because their father abused Tom for it.  So much was explained about his atrocious behavior in the first book here and it definitely made Tom more understandable.

Mal runs into Tom accidentally at a gaming club and Tom is desperate enough to offer himself out for money.  Except Mal sees the Goddess mark and has this surge of hope that his beloved cousin, who is more a brother than anything, can be saved by Tom and his Goddess blessing.  He needs Tom.  Mal is the reason I didn’t rate this 5 stars because he repeatedly is so mean to Tom that he fell from my favor more than a few times.

Mirreith, the goddess who’s mark Tom bears, grants good fortune to her chosen but at a price.  They are required to yield “…to another in body and soul.”  Since his father had tortured him with this fact as being disgusting, (and my heart broke for an eight-year-old Tom crying over the dictionary as he looked up the word his father called him, catamite), he has tried everything to not do so, to disastrous results (book one).  “If men or women with her blessing tried to marry one another, or anyone of either sex couldn’t subjugate their strength properly, their luck turned to a curse.”   He tried with both Owen and Caroline, to the pain of all of them.

Mal starts off right away being insulting. “Leighton has just relegated him to a status lower than that of a servant by presenting him to Preston, rather than the other way around.  It was a calculated insult. It was designed to put Tom in his place.”  I was very gratified to see that however low Tom might have fallen, he does still have some sense of self.  “Tom held his ground.  He had nowhere to go, and nothing to lose, and if Leighton strangled him here in the street it would matter to no one, least of all to him.

William, the cousin Mal is so desperate to save, is so very ill and yet is still gracious and sweet. He is so happy for Mal and Tom when he finds out they are married, although Mal doesn’t tell him why they married.  And Mal continues to hurt Tom.  Calling him a whore, putting him down and generally acting just like Tom’s father did.  “I’ll need to be convincing indeed when not even your own wife could keep up the pretense of loving you long enough to bear your child.”  For the life of me I kept wondering why this lovely man, William, was so close with someone who could be so mean.

Tom has so much respect for Mal’s love for William.  “No one in his own family would sit this kind of vigil for him, were he in William’s place. His own father had told him early and often how he wished Tom had died at birth…”   Tom grows close to William as well, reading to him on the sick bed, talking and willing to do anything to make William well.

The good fortune that comes to those Tom loves doesn’t happen because they are faking the marriage. So they have to move forward and try to make a marriage out of it.   Mal has the most distance to cross, as he is the most hurtful.  “…(Mal) could wonder why Tom offered such a generous ration of kindness to Will when he could spare not a whit of it for Mal.  But he knew damn well why.  It was Mal’s own doing.  He’d never given Tom the chance to be anything but the callous rake the world believed him to be, sneering at and berating him, seducing and mocking him….He had no one to blame but himself.”   Because he is good at knowing himself, Mal redeemed himself somewhat for me. “The knowledge that he himself had destroyed his own changes of any kind of happiness through his own cruelty brought him anything but satisfaction now.”

That it takes an act of honor on Tom’s part to turn things around seemed very fitting to me. By the end, honestly, I was astonished that this author was able to take a character I so loathed in the first book and make me love him and care what happened to him in the second.  To me, that is the sign of talent.

Cover art, showing a shirtless Mal? Tom? is a little too generic for me and didn’t do justice to the story.

Sales Links:  Amazon

Book Details:

Kindle Edition
Expected publication: June 7th 2019 by Smoking Teacup Books
ASINB07RWJVB3N
Series Goddess-Blessed #2

The Replacement Husband

 

Love Suspense and Historical Romance? Check Out the Tour and Giveaway for Under The Radar by Lillian Francis

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Cover Design: Tiferet Design
 
Length: 138,000 words approx.
 
Blurb
 

It’s 1942 and after a sexual indiscretion, US Navy pilot Zachary MacKenzie is sent to serve in the Royal Navy’s submarine service—a shockingly harsh punishment for a man who loves to fly. The submarine is oppressive and frustrating for him, and he’s marked out from his peers, publicly by being American, and privately by his attraction to men.


The only bright spot is the company of his steward, sonar operator Gethin Llewelyn. Despite the differences of rank and background, they’re drawn to each other. Gethin’s integrity complements Zach’s casual joie de vivre, and soon the friendship develops into something much more.


As the threats of war increase, the submarine is plagued by potentially hostile vessels, and circumstances lead them to suspect there’s a spy amongst their own crew. Being forced even closer together as they work for the greater good reveals a new awareness, and Zach doesn’t know what is in more danger, the vessel under his charge or his heart.


“From Polari to Polaris, it’s never been just the nice girls who love a sailor. Lillian Francis effortlessly evokes the claustrophobia and camaraderie of life—and forbidden love—aboard a WW2 submarine.” – JL Merrow

Read Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words Review here.  We highly recommend it!

 

Lillian Francis is a self-confessed geek who likes nothing more than settling down with a comic or a good book, except maybe writing. Given a notepad, pen, her Kindle, and an infinite supply of chocolate Hob Nobs and she can lose herself for weeks. Romance was never her reading matter of choice, so it came as a great surprise to all concerned, including herself, to discover a romance was exactly what she’d written, and not the rollicking spy adventure or cosy murder mystery she always assumed she’d write.


http://lillianfrancis.blogspot.co.uk/
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Email: lillianfrancis@rocketmail.com

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A MelanieM Review: Anthony, Earl of Crofton by Rebecca Cohen

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Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5

A tale set in Stuart England, where the king’s life depends on his most loyal of subjects.

Anthony Redbourn, Earl of Crofton, delights in his reputation as a charming rogue. Life is never quiet at the court of King James I, especially with his good friend and secret lover, Sebastian Hewel, by his side. As an actor with the celebrated King’s Men, Sebastian has his own admirers, but neither man has eyes for anyone else.

When a plot against His Majesty is uncovered it threatens Anthony and Sebastian’s charmed lives, and they are dragged into the political intrigue and the race to save the king from danger. Fear that a traitor is linked to the King’s Men leaves Sebastian and Anthony with no choice but to stage a very public dissolution of their friendship, so Anthony can be free to be the patron of a new rising actor, and Sebastian can be the prodigy of another noble.

It is a dangerous game they are playing to expose the plotters and still find a way to meet in secret, as Anthony is adamant that they will not sacrifice the love they have fought so hard to win. They will do whatever it takes to protect the king’s life, and their commitment to each other.

I have loved this couple from the start of their relationship.  That was  Rebecca Cohen’s The Actor and the Earl, the first story in the The Crofton Chronicles. That series was told from Sebastian’s pov and actually stretched through their lineage into the modern day Crofton Hall.  It is a terrific series, one I rec to anyone who adores M/M historical romance.

I had thought that Rebecca Cohen was finished with the Croftons, the series over.  But with the release of this new story, the author has also started a new series as well.  This time told from Anthony’s perspective and what a joy and entertaining ride it is.

Anthony, Earl of Crofton by Rebecca Cohen picks up after the events of Forever Hold His Peace (The Crofton Chronicles #3).  You don’t have to have read that story as the author fills in all the details nicely here.  But if you have, this feels like coming home again and your fingers will itch to go back and pick up the other series as a foundation.  Sebastian is treading the boards as a popular and extremely successful actor of the day, with his ex brother in law Anthony as his patron.  It’s again trying times to disguise their true relationship as lovers behind this masquerade but they are taking precautions and Anthony’s new engagement to Lady Sarah (which also shields her love for her maid Beth) will also help hide them.

Then a plan to kill King James by a Scottish insurgency intent on returning Catholicism and a far different reign to England comes to light and Anthony and Sebastian’s assistance is needed.

What makes this novel so enjoyable is that not only are the characters so well drawn but that the author has done her research for the time period and it all flows together so beautifully.  The plays, the cloths, the court, the politics and intrigue.  It all comes together in high romance, suspense, and no little amount of anxiety at times over the safety of our main couple.  And their happiness!

If you have read the other three books that make up their wild beginning story and path towards love and a real relationship, you can more readily appreciate the stage Anthony and Sebastian are at here in their lives.  If you haven’t, I have listed them for you below.  They are well worth reading before you get to this one, trust me because they are the foundation story for this couple.

Anthony, Earl of Crofton by Rebecca Cohen ended just as I hoped after such a thrilling adventure for them both.  I can’t wait to see what the next installment brings.    It will sure be one of great romance, high adventure, more than a little suspense and a love that lasted through more turmoils and troubles than anyone could expect.

The story is fast paced, sexy, fun, and so well written that it just flies by.    You will definitely want more once it’s finished.  I highly recommend reading all the Crofton stories as I love them all, including this one.

Cover art:  Garrett Leigh at Black Jazz Designs.  Well, I would have thought Anthony would be one with a little less swagger but then again maybe not.

Buy Links: Amazon US | Amazon UK | Universal Link

Book Details:

Kindle Edition, 240 pages
Published April 25th 2019
ASINB  07QMTQ6DB
Edition Language English

The Crofton Chronicles Series – Anthony and Sebastian from Sebastian’s pov:

The Actor and the Earl

Duty to the Crown

Forever Hold His Peace (this is where Anthony, Earl of Crofton picks up)

Love Historicals? Don’t Miss the Review Tour and Giveaway for Rebecca Cohen’s Anthony, Earl of Crofton

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Cover Design: Garrett Leigh @ Black Jazz Design
 
Length: 66,000 words approx.
 
Blurb



A tale set in Stuart England, where the king’s life depends on his most loyal of subjects.


Anthony Redbourn, Earl of Crofton, delights in his reputation as a charming rogue. Life is never quiet at the court of King James I, especially with his good friend and secret lover, Sebastian Hewel, by his side. As an actor with the celebrated King’s Men, Sebastian has his own admirers, but neither man has eyes for anyone else.



When a plot against His Majesty is uncovered it threatens Anthony and Sebastian’s charmed lives, and they are dragged into the political intrigue and the race to save the king from danger. Fear that a traitor is linked to the King’s Men leaves Sebastian and Anthony with no choice but to stage a very public dissolution of their friendship, so Anthony can be free to be the patron of a new rising actor, and Sebastian can be the prodigy of another noble.


It is a dangerous game they are playing to expose the plotters and still find a way to meet in secret, as Anthony is adamant that they will not sacrifice the love they have fought so hard to win. They will do whatever it takes to protect the king’s life, and their commitment to each other.

 

Author Bio
 

REBECCA COHEN spends her days dreaming of a living in a Tudor manor house, or a Georgian mansion. Alas, the closest she comes to this is through her characters in her historical romance novels. She also dreams of intergalactic adventures and fantasy realms, but because she’s not yet got her space or dimensional travel plans finalised, she lives happily in leafy Hertfordshire, England, with her husband and young son. She can often be found with a pen in one hand and sloe gin with lemon tonic in the other.

 

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A MelanieM Review: Valhalla by L.A. Ashton

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Rating: 4.25 stars out of 5

 

Sakuma has served as a Valkyrie for centuries, smoothly escorting thousands of souls to the grand halls of Valhalla. While the world tears itself apart during WWII, he is summoned to retrieve the soul of a fallen Japanese soldier, Ishii Hiroshi. To Sakuma’s surprise, Ishii refuses his invitation to eternity.

The two meet again and again as the war repeatedly sends Ishii to death’s door, and what should have been a fleeting encounter becomes something much greater for the both of them.

Sakuma is determined to give Ishii the reward he so deserves, but Ishii’s stubbornness may condemn him to an eternity outside Valhalla.

I was lured in by this synopsis, a Valkyrie  sent to summon a soul of a soldier who refuses to die, believing his duty is not yet over.  And the emotional part of this story absolutely won me over.  The bond that grew between Sakuma and Ishii was powerful, based on a shared beliefs, and background even though they were centuries apart.  I found their relationship deeply moving and at the end, it had me in tears.

What kept this story from 5 stars was missed opportunity because, honestly it came close.    Ashton chose to have two Japaneses warriors as their main characters, both of which were shining examples of bushido, also known as “the way of the warrior”, a code of conduct for the samurai, which Sakuma was prior to his death.  In some ways, it is a way of life that both men exemplify to the core.

So why on earth do you mash that up confusedly with Norse mythology?  Surely with all the richness of Shinto major and minor kami, plus some from Buddhism or Taoism, why would you need to twist the maiden Valkyries of Odin  into “integrated” new Valkyries of both sexes. The argument here is because Valhalla had so many new bodies and souls the maidens couldn’t handle them all. Seemed specious and I never bought it. So many holes in this one from people from different religions being sent to a place where the gods of one religion (not theirs) rule.  That part, plus well Valhalla and the Norse religion with Japanese men who were deeply part of their country’s culture if not their emperor and the politics of whatever era they came from (July 7, 1937, to September 2, 1945 the invasion of China by Japan for Ishii).  It never felt like a good fit.  More like that puzzle piece someone kept jamming in that section because they needed it to fit there, rather than because it actually did.   No, for me, using Norse mythology in the place of Bushido and the Shinto religion was just a missed opportunity, especially with the well constructed Japanese main characters so essentially Samurai.

As it is, I still recommend Valhalla for the relationship between Sakuma and Ishii, two soldiers separated by duty and centuries and death.  It’s amazingly touching, watching Ishii persevere over and over battle after battle is heartbreaking and the ending is incredibly moving.  For this amazing romance alone I will be seeking out more stories by LA Ashton and recommending that you read Valhalla by L.A. Ashton.

Cover Art: Natasha Snow.  I love this cover.  Moody with the soldier outlined in the background and the light above which could either be a bomb blast or a Valkyrie.  Perfect.

Sales Links: 

NineStar Press | Amazon | Smashwords | Barnes & Noble | Kobo

Book Details:

Kindle Edition, 68 pages
Published December 31st 2018 by NineStar Press
ASIN B07L9GSLGS

A Lucy Review The Replacement Husband by Eliot Grayson

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Rating: 4 stars out of 5

Goddess-blessed Owen Honeyfield is destined to enjoy perfect good fortune, and the arrival of handsome and eligible Tom Drake in his country town appears to be just the latest manifestation. Tom’s proposal is the fulfillment of Owen’s desires, but Owen is left heartbroken and at the mercy of Arthur, Tom’s disapproving elder brother, when his betrothal takes a disastrous turn. His reputation ruined and his bright future shattered, Owen must choose between loneliness and practicality.

Arthur Drake has taken responsibility for Tom’s scandalous behavior all their lives. He doesn’t think much of his brother’s engagement, knowing that even Owen’s sweetness won’t be enough to influence Tom for the better. When Tom’s impulsive selfishness threatens to ruin the lives of everyone involved, Arthur has only one honorable choice. He’ll need to repair the damage Tom has done and fight for his own happiness, knowing all the while he may never be able to take Tom’s place in Owen’s heart.

I am a huge fan of historicals and I was interested in this one because many of the social norms of, say the Regency era, were not present.  The Goddess worship, for one, as well as the acceptance of same-sex relationships and marriages and the acceptance of divorce .

Owen has been Goddess-blessed and this means he will enjoy good fortune and a good life.  This extends to those he cares about.  He meets the brothers after a fall on the moors and falls for Tom.  However, when his beloved turns out to be a cheating jerk, it is up to Tom’s brother, Arthur, to try to salvage the situation. In this way it was interesting – Owen’s reputation would be ruined for being jilted because he is Goddess-blessed, so how could this happen? Very reminiscent of true historicals where the female is ruined.

I adored Arthur.  So stoic and steadfast, wanting to make things right while battling feelings for a man (Owen) who was sort of forced into this marriage and who not only loves another, but loves Arthur’s own brother.  Arthur was the highlight for me. 

Owen I wasn’t so enamored with, if only because he comes across as a damsel.  His father wrote the marriage settlement, that Owen didn’t bother to read.  Then I questioned- why do two men need a marriage settlement?  Owen seems very young, very “let’s act stupid so as to not upset the men” which reminded me so much of females in Regency times. “Owen knew very well he was not wrong, but intelligent, confident men of the world were seldom pleased to be corrected by their pretty young husbands, as unfair as that was.”    Even some of the descriptions, “…his hands smoothest up, coming to rest around Owen’s waist, where they nearly spanned its circumference.”

There were times I wanted to shake Owen for not seeing what was in front of him and for pining for Tom.  Owen’s treatment of Tom’s wife was lovely, as was Arthur’s behavior after the “…not unprovoked pillow.” 

This was my first time reading Eliot Grayson and I look forward to more of his books. This twist on the historical worked very well for me.

Cover art by Fiona Jayde fits the style of the book, just a man dressed in era-appropriated garb.

Sales Links:  Goodreads  |   Amazon

Book Details:

ebook, 160 pages

Published December 28th 2018 by Smoking Teacup Books

ASIN B07MD3K885

Edition Language English

A MelanieM Review: Lessons in Cracking the Deadly Code (Cambridge Fellows #12.7) by Charlie Cochrane

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Rating: 5 stars out of 5

St Bride’s College is buzzing with excitement at the prospect of reviving the traditional celebration of the saint’s day. When events get marred by murder it’s natural that Jonty Stewart and Orlando Coppersmith will get called in to help the police with their inside knowledge. But why has somebody been crawling about on the chapel roof and who’s obsessed with searching in the library out of hours?

Yes! The mystery is afoot to borrow another sleuth’s phrase in the latest Cambridge Fellows mystery by Charlie Cochrane.  The author is not following along a specific timeline for her stories, happily for us who follow this series, so here some of our favorite characters like Jonty’s parents can still be seen taking part in solving this  quite puzzling affair. What a joy as I love them so.

In Lessons in Cracking the Deadly Code, St. Bride’s is looking to reestablish many of its older traditions for Saint’s Day, and it has called upon it faculty and staff for assistance.  That includes the mystery of who killed one of its students, and cause behind his death.  Once again it’s Jonty and  Orlando on the job. Orlando especially who was feeling maybe out of sorts, and needing a mystery to solve, got several handed to him.

Because as we all know, nothing is simple in a Cambridge Fellows mystery.  There are layers, and   complications, and a knotted path to follow to the end. A marvelous journey done in companable conversation, affectionate glances, witty phrases (with the  occasional snark thrown in), hewn through years of partnership and love that the author has crafted so carefully and genuinely.  I know these men because I have been through so much with them with this series that coming into this stories feel like visiting with old friends.

Charlie Cochrane is a master at placing her characters and story into a historic setting with accurate touch that’s so subtle that she makes it look easy.  It’s not.  The time period comes alive in her hands just as Jonty and Orlando do, as they have gone through the years in this series, emerging on the  other end of the war, back in England.  All the changes reflected in each story as it is here.  Along with that you get the deepening romance and love over the years of these two remarkable men and often some very gnarly murders as is the case here.

I adore the mysteries Cochrane concocted for this one, all for a story in 110 pages.  Amazing.

I had a great visit and can’t wait to see where the next mystery takes us.  I’m thrilled that the author is happy to go willy nilly all over this couple’s timeline.  I want their journey never to be over and this is a great way to do it.

I highly recommend this and all the Cambridge Fellow Mysteries, but especially 1 through 10 should be read in the order they were written.

Cover art by Alex Beecroft: I love the soft tone of this illustration.  Great for the era and story.  Love the author’s novels too.

Buy Link:  Amazon

Book Details:

Kindle Edition, 110 pages
Published November 26th 2018 by The Right Chair Press
ASIN B07JM5Q3J6
Series Cambridge Fellows #12.7

A Free Dreamer Review: Rebellion by Naomi Aoki

Standard

Rating: 4 stars out 5

1899, political tensions are rising with the emergence of the Boxer Movement in Northern China, straining ties between the Chinese Imperial Government and the Eight Nations with stakes in the country. As a Captain in the Royal Marines, Alfred Cartwright is deployed to Shanghai, where he discovers more than he’d dared to dream of – Love. Not even the struggles with language or the fear of reprisals if their relationship is found out, can stop Alfred from falling for the Chinese man he encounters. But as the ant-foreigner sentiment of the Boxer Movement grows in strength, their relationship will be put to the test.

Where do Alfred’s loyalties lie? With the man he loves or his country, as they stand opposite each other on a battlefield neither can escape.

I’ve found Asian history in general, and Chinese and Japanese history in particular, fascinating for a long time. So when the review request for “Rebellion” popped up in my inbox, I just couldn’t say no.

First of all, you definitely don’t need to be an expert on China, Chinese history or the Boxer Uprising to understand and enjoy this book. All I knew about the Boxer Uprising before I started this book was that it happened it in China a longish time ago and a vague recollection that it wasn’t actually about boxers. After finishing “Rebellion” I can’t say I know too much more, to be honest. And that’s a shame, because when I read a historical novel, I expect to learn more about the period it is set in. But this book mainly focused on Alfred’s feelings and the time he spent with Zhang, rather than what was going on around them.

The few things I did learn about the time period were truly fascinating, however. I had no idea homosexuality wasn’t a big deal, for example. And we did get some details on how the British Empire and other nations behaved in China and how the average foreigner saw the Chinese. I just wish there had been more scenes that didn’t focus solely on Alfred’s feelings for Zhang.

The love story of these two men was deliciously forbidden and horribly dangerous, because while homosexuality might not have been a big deal for the Chinese, it certainly was for the Brits and neither of the nations approved of relationships between a British Marine Captain and a Chinese man. I think the author did a brilliant job of describing Alfred’s conflicting loyalties and I came to really feel for him and his struggles.

Their relationship was made even more complicated by the language barrier. Personally, I loved that the author chose to transliterate whole passages of Mandarin. I’ve always found foreign languages fascinating and I like to try to figure out how a language works. But I can see how other readers might get bored by it after a while. Most of the time, it’s just a couple of short sentences but there are a few longer passages. On a purely superficial note I also liked that the author only put the translation in italics, not the Mandarin.

There were several semi explicit sex scenes that I found really hot, but that’s really not an important part of the story. It just showed the developing bond between the two men.

We don’t learn too much about Zhang. He doesn’t get his own POV and we only learn some minor details about his past. He remained ever mysterious. A little more background info would have been nice.

Another minor niggle was the editing. There were a few minor grammar mistakes that kept coming up. It’s nothing too distracting but I always feel a bit cheated when such simple mistakes aren’t fixed.

My final niggle would be a spoiler, so I’m not going to go into too much detail. Let’s just say that there was a conflict between the two that I didn’t feel was ever really properly resolved. It’s brushed off with a couple of sentences, so the two of them can have their happy end without any distractions.

I did like the ending and thought it was at least somewhat realistic. Though a follow-up on how they’re going to survive would be very interesting.

Overall, “Rebellion” was a good book. I did have a few minor niggles and the book felt a bit short but all in all it was definitely an enjoyable read. A solid four star read and I’m interested to find out what else the author has written. And I also want to read more about the Boxer Uprising in general, so Naomi Aoki did a great job in making me curious.

I quite like the cover. It looks a bit mysterious and I think it works well for the story.

Buy Links: Amazon US | Amazon UK

Book details: Kindle Edition,172 pages

Published November 24th 2018 by Naomi Aoki