Review of An Unconventional Union (Unconventional #2) by Scotty Cade

Standard

Rating: 3.25 stars

Unconventional Union coverAfter discovering love in An Unconventional Courtship, Kincaid International Corporation’s CEO, Webber Kincaid, and his executive assistant, Tristan Moreau, return home to find that Webber is the subject of an SEC and Department of Justice investigation over Illegal business transactions by his company’s CFO. A CFO who threatens to out the couple unless they cover for his activities.  Faced with the ruination of their reputations and that of the company his father built, Webber Kincaid prepares to fight back and help the SEC and Justice Department with their investigations.

But while their business world is chaotic, their personal relationship has never been better now that they have finally admitted they love each other. In face, Webber has proposed and Tristan accepted and a Martha’s Vineyard wedding is now under preparation.  As the wedding date gets closer, Tristan knows he has to let go of his past and tell Webber about his family and the secrets he has kept hidden and both men decide to out themselves to Webber’s board of directors and the world.  With so many obstacles in front of them, Webber and Tristan must stand together, love intact, to make it through their wedding and their HEA.

I normally love Scotty Cade’s books and found his Mystery of Ruby Lode to be exceptional. So even without reading the first book in this series, I was looking forward to An Unconventional Union.  Unfortunately what I found was a book that could almost be divided into two totally different sections each in a different genre.  First lets discuss the elements I did like about the story.  This is a sweet love story between two men that took two years to develop due to a working relationship and  their closeted status.  While I did not read the first book, their courtship and accompanying issues are related to the reader in as Tristan remembers how they got together as the beginning of this book so the author gives us the backstory right from the beginning.

We enter the story shortly after Webber has proposed to Tristan and been accepted.  The company’s financial problems are already established as well.  Cade takes care to show how the men are dealing with all the changes around them as realistically as possible, including the impact on their new relationship and future wedding.  I think this section or element of the book is really nicely done.  The men are easy to relate to and they express their love easily and in a manner that makes their passion for each other authentic.  There is a multitude of “I love you’s” and similar expressions of love but considering their newfound status and approaching nuptials, I find that totally in keeping with the situation.

And at the end of the book, a traumatic event really brings the best out of Scotty Cade as a writer.  It is heartwrenching, warm, and concisely told, really outstanding and the best part of this story.  I only wish I could say the same about the majority of the book because when you get down to it,  perhaps less than half of An Unconventional Union relates to the plot.  The other half?  That is where my issues with this book come in.

For me, the majority of this story is a verbose, overly descriptive travel article on Martha’s Vineyard and The Inn and Restaurant at Lambert’s Cove.  Every part of this is related in a dry lecture guaranteed to make your eyes glaze over and kill any forward motion in the plot.  Here are Webber and Tristan on the plane researching the island:

“This site says the first explorer to leave any real account of the island was Bartholomew Gosnold. He landed on the cape first, which he named Cape Cod from the abundance of codfish. Then he sailed southward and landed on a small island about six miles southeast of Gay Head. He named this small island Martha’s Vineyard. The next day he landed on the larger island, and after exploring it and finding luxuriant grape vines, many beautiful ponds and springs, he transferred the name and called it Martha’s Vineyard, in honor of his mother, whose name was Martha.”

More than you probably needed to know, but not too bad.  The worse is yet to come, because soon they arrive at The Inn at Lambert’s Cover (which is standing in for the real thing called Lambert’s Cove Inn & Restaurant).  From the moment they set foot on the grounds, the reader is given a detailed inventory of each room, including foyers, every knickknack in the library, every…well I will let the book speak for itself:

“From the moment he stepped inside, Tristan saw that the inn was just as the photos and description had portrayed. The foyer and surrounding rooms were decorated in what could only be considered English Country style. It was warm and inviting. To the left was a large parlor done in red, furnished with deep mahogany leather couches and warm red and gold plaid wingback chairs positioned in front of a large fireplace. To the right was a more formal room decorated in royal blue and greens with yet another massive fireplace. Tristan immediately pictured himself and Webber sprawled across that couch with a good book and a scotch in front of a roaring fire. He imagined the wind howling and a foot of snow on the ground and not having a care in the world while being safe and secure with the man he loved. He was snapped out of his daydream as another gentleman joined them.”

And we are just getting started, now onto the bedroom.

“Tristan stepped into the room first and was amazed at what he saw. It was what he would consider a quintessential New England-style room. The ceiling was a little lower than usual, and the room was painted in a warm coppery color with a muted tan and cream-colored striped fabric accented with a cream-colored damask. There was a four-poster bed with a canopy attached to a large ceiling medallion over the center of the bed gently cascading to each bedpost and draping to the floor, puddling at the base. There was a skirted table with two houndstooth plaid oversized wingback chairs and a large antique dresser opposite the bed. At the far end of the room was a bathroom with a deep soaking tub, and directly across was a walk-in closet.”

Now imagine the same attention to detail when describing each foyer, concierge desk and hallway and you should start to see the problem here. But wait, there’s more….

Here is Tristan looking out the bedroom window, they haven’t even made it into the gardens yet:

“Tristan scanned the area outside of their window. Tall trees and hedges surrounded the expansive lawn offering total privacy and seclusion. To the left was a large square lion’s head fountain spitting water into a pool from four different directions. To the right was a white octagon-shaped gazebo with a cedar shake roof housing white wicker furniture with overstuffed cushions, obviously for relaxing and watching the day go by. “It really is beautiful.”

Now to be fair there are some lovely scenes with the couple making love or kissing interspersed between the decorator’s manual but still that is broken up by more of the same:

“They walked in silence along a red brick path, hands still linked together tightly. Tristan turned his head from side to side as he took in the surroundings while he tried to calm his nerves. They passed an herb garden tucked away into a corner of the main house on the right, while on the left they approached a black lion’s head fountain spitting water into a pool nestled into a glorious wall of lilacs at least eight feet tall. Next, they crossed the front of the inn, walked through a white arbor, passed a koi pond, and sauntered across the lawn, finally stopping when they stepped into the gazebo. Webber released his hand and gestured for him to take a seat on the white wicker loveseat. Tristan sat and watched as Webber poured them each another glass of wine and took a seat next to him. ”  *head desk*

They can’t even go to dinner without the entire meal being displayed out before you, showing us what a gourmet restaurant should be serving.

“As they walked toward the main house and restaurant, the sounds of Edith Piaf filled the air, reminding Tristan of a brief trip he’d taken to France. Once inside, Sam and Cavan put them at a lovely secluded table in the corner overlooking the pool area. Webber ordered a vintage bottle of Bourgogne Rouge VV “Maison Dieu” Domaine de Bellene, and their night officially began. They started with oysters on the half shell, then as an appetizer Webber ordered grilled white peaches with imported prosciutto, shaved red cabbage, and micro greens, and Tristan ordered steamed mussels in caramelized ginger, green onions, and coconut milk. For entrees, Webber had the seared sea scallops and Tristan horseradish-dusted veal. Sam and Cavan took turns seamlessly stopping by to make sure everything was to their liking, but never lingered long enough to intrude on their privacy. They finished the meals off by sharing a Belgian chocolate molten lava cake and a bottle of Ruffino Moscato d’Asti Italian dessert wine.”

We don’t get descriptions of how the meal tasted, the aroma that wafted off the grilled peaches, nothing to make our mouth water.  We simply get a list of foods served, like a sample menu you would show people prior to checking in.  For me this was a complete fail in terms of writing.  All of these intermable passages describing the Inn’s decor, gardens and restaurant only serves to kill any momentum in the plot that the author had achieved to that point in the story.  Webber and Tristan starts to discuss important issues in their relationship and boom, we are back to rows of shrubbery and black wrought iron lions.

We do get a slight break from the Architectural Digest treatment when they return to the city, but when they wed, its back to the Inn and more descriptions of the wedding ceremony and gardens at the Inn that would do a wedding planner proud.  Seriously, a wedding planner could use this as a template for an upcoming wedding it is that complete.  There is a small drama at the wedding and then back to the city where finally the heart of this story arrives never to leave.   It is the final pages of An Unconventional Union that raised this story up to 3.25 stars.

So while I will continue to read Scotty Cade, I will give this series a pass.  I love descriptions of places and things when they make sense, are concise, and written with passion.  And although I know Mr. Cade must love Martha’s Vineyard as he lives there, none of that comes across in the dense narrative given to us here.

Here are the books in the order they were written for this series so far:

An Unconventional Courtship (Unconventional #1)

An Unconventional Union (Unconventional #2)

Reese Dante’s cover is gorgeous, I love the models and the landscape, perfect for the story within.

Happy St. Patrick’s Day and the Week Ahead in Reviews

Standard

sláinte! Happy St. Patrick’s Day.  To start your St. Patrick’s Day, here is some great music from Brogan’s Bar in Ennis, Ireland to get you fired up!

Half Irish, half Scottish, I love this day and today the weather has gone along with the program and seems particularly Irish. Overcast, damp, but not too cold, perfect for marching in parades all over the nation.

I have travelled to Ireland several times and found the leaving of it always comes with a crease in my heart, as though even my cells know that we are saying farewell to home.  My first time visiting with my high school daughter was both a delightful and revelatory, her feet seeming to find paths that she should not know where there.   My nights were filled of dreams of seals and shores and music carried along the winds over gorse covered hills, studded with stone.  And on the penultimate day, Heather and I were hiking in a verdant forest, far away from any others or so we thought.  And then we heard it, or heard them more accurately.  First the sounds of a waterfall, the roar getting louder the closer we got.  But what really made that day magical was the sounds of piping coming from high overhead.  We craned our necks to see where it came from and finally we found him, standing on a rock ledge, eyes closed, bagpipes swelling as he lost himself in the music he was playing.  We listened for a while and then quietly left, rejuevenated and enriched by a magical experience shared before she left for college.  One of my finest memories.

So day I hope for the best for all of you, of laughter shared, of love found and family held close. And as this website is, mostly, devoted to books I will leave you with a quote from an Irish author:

“As a writer, I write to see. If I knew how it would end, I wouldn’t write. It’s a process of discovery.”
– Author John McGahern

Here is the week ahead in book reviews:

Monday, March 18:                An Unconventional Union by Scotty Cade

Tuesday, March 19:                 Never A Hero by Marie Sexton

Wed., March 20:                     Redemption of the Beast by Amylea Lyn

Thursday, March 21:              Family Man by Heidi Cullinan

Friday, March 22:                   Nights in Canaan by Kendall McKenna

Sat., March 23:                        Natural Predators by Neil Placky

So, that’s the week.  Have a safe and wonderful St. Patrick’s Day.  Forego the green beer, that’s gross anyway and have a Irish Manhattan, so much better!

Scattered Thoughts Best Books of 2012

Standard

What a spectacular year for great books in every genre from historical to fantasy! I have read so many wonderful books and series this year that it is hard to even begin to narrow down the list, although I have tried. What makes a book great for me? So many things, that it needs its own list.

The books I listed here are ones that moved me to tears and made me laugh out loud, they took me to places I have never been to see sights fantastic, miraculous, and awe inspiring. I have watched dragons soar and seen twin suns set over alien worlds. Through these wonderful authors I have met people who continue to stay with me through the power of their stories and the connectedness that I feel with each of the characters I have read about. Sometimes the books have taught me something about myself and how I looked at others or just gave me a deeper appreciation for my fellow beings.

I have grieved with men who have lost their soul mates, been with them as they worked through the trauma and loss, and celebrated as they moved forward with their lives. I watched men fall in love, whether it be with shifters, wizards, or just a man they met on the side of the road. Love lost, love found or lovers rediscovering the best about each other…that seems to know no boundaries as far as who you are and what world you inhabit. It doesn’t even matter whether the story is set in the past or goes far into the future. The authors and books listed here are ones that I cherish and return to often to visit with them once more. If you haven’t already read them, I hope you will add them to your list of must reads, as they are surely mine.

Oh, and by the way, this list is not complete. There are some wonderful books still to be released in the last two weeks of December, and there are some that I just missed from my own reviews. So look to see a revised list after the first of the year. Really there is something for everyone here. Happy reading!

Best Historical Book:
All Lessons Learned by Charlie Cochrane (Best Series) review coming in 2013
The Celestial by Barry Brennessel
The Mystery of Ruby Lode by Scotty Cade

Best Short Story

Eight Days by Cardeno C
Fair Puckled by Bella Leone
Lily by Xavier Axelson
Leather Work and Lonely Cowboys, a Roughstock story, by BA Tortuga
Too Careful by Half, a Roughstock story, BA Tortuga

Best Contemporary Romance – Standalone

Fall Into the Sun by Val Kovalin
Marathon Cowboys by Sarah Black

Fallout by Ariel Tachna

Good Bones by Kim Fielding

Legend of the Apache Kid by Sarah Black

Mine by Mary Calmes
Play It Again, Charlie by RC CooperScrap Metal by Harper Fox
Sidecar by Amy Lane

The Cool Part of His Pillow by Rodney Ross

 Best Novels – Part of a Series

A Foreign Range by Andrew Grey
Acceleration by Amelia C. Gormley
But My Boyfriend Is by KA Mitchell
Chase the Stars by Ariel Tachna
Cherish, Faith, Love & Devotion 4 by Tere Michaels
Frat Boy and Toppy by Anne Tenino
Full Circle by RJ Scott
Hope by William Neale
Inherit the Sky by Ariel Tachna (Best Series)
Second Hand, a Tucker Springs story by Heidi Cullinan and Marie Sexton
Stars & Stripes by Abigail Roux (Best Series)
The Journal of Sanctuary One by RJ Scott
The Melody Thief by Shira Anthony (also Best Series)
Who We Are by TJ Klune

Best First Novels
The Cool Park of His Pillow by Rodney Ross
Shattered Glass by Dani Alexander
Inertia by Amelia C. Gormley (Best Series)

Best Supernatural Book:
A Token of Time by Ethan Day
Crucible of Fate by Mary Calmes (Best Series)
Druid Stone by Heidi Belleau and Violetta Vane
Ghosts in the Wind by Marguerite Labbe
Hawaiian Gothic by Heidi Belleau and Violetta Vane
Infected: Life After Death by Andrea Speed (Best Series)
Riot Boy by Katey Hawthorne
The Gravedigger’s Brawl by Abigail Roux

Science Fiction Books:
Emerald Fire by A. Catherine Noon and Rachel Wilder
The Trust by Shira Anthony

Best Fantasy Books:
 Black Magic by Megan Derr
Burning Bright by Megan Derr (Lost Gods series)
Chaos (Lost Gods series) by Megan Derr
Magic’s Muse by Anne Barwell
Poison by Megan Derr (Lost Gods series)
Treasure by Megan Derr (Lost Gods series)
Best Series – new books this year:
A Change of Heart series by Mary Calmes (supernatural)
Blue Notes series by Shira Anthony (contemporary)
Cambridge Fellows series by Charlie Cochrane (historical)
Cut & Run series by Abigail Roux (and Madeleine Urban) (Contemporary)
Faith, Love & Devotion series by Tere Michaels (contemporary)
Infected Series by Andrea Speed (supernatural)
Knitting series by Amy Lane (contemporary)
Lost Gods by Megan Derr (Fantasy)
Sanctuary series by RJ Scott (contemporary)
Sci Regency series by JL Langley (science fiction)

So Many Great Series, here are more of my favorites:

A Matter of Time series by Mary Calmes (contemporary)

Jewel Bonds series by Megan Derr (fantasy)

Superpowered Love series by Katey Hawthorne

Wick series by Megan Derr
Best Anthologies:

Three Fates
Animal Magnetism
Lashings of Sauce
Making Contact

I know that many books are missing but I just did not get to them this year, including JP Barnaby’s Little Boy Lost series, Andrew Grey’s Range series, and so many more.  Look for them in 2013.  Do you have a favorite I should know about?  Write me and let me know.

Review of The Mystery of Ruby Lode by Scotty Cade

Standard

Warnings: Rape, mention of past sexual abuse, attempted rape, child abuse

Rating: 4.75 stars

Bowen McAlister and his partner Cyrus Curran along with their friends Duff Gentry and Lockhart Dawson are headed out to Boulder, Colorado to research and explore the Ruby Lode, an abandoned gold mine for Bowen’s outdoor adventure company.  But even before they take off, Duff gets a premonition that makes him uneasy. When Duff tells the others, they listen out of respect for their friend’s psychic abilities but continue on even as Duff’s fears grow.

They should have listened.  Because Duff is right.  Lurking deep in the mine shafts of Ruby Lode, something dark and dangerous awaits the four men, determined to protect its secrets at all costs, including death. It preys on each man’s insecurities, it visits them in their dreams turning them into nightmares.  For each man to survive, they will have to look deep within themselves for the truth about each other and secrets long hidden must come to the surface if all are to remain sane and survive the mystery of Ruby Lode.

This novel was just a cornucopia of wonderful elements that it is hard to know where to begin.  Usually I start with the characterizations and with the four men mentioned above Scotty Cade has done a great job of bringing together diverse personas with some truly heartbreaking backgrounds and meshing them together as a close knit group of friends the reader loves spending time with.  Bowen McAlister and Cyrus Curran have been together for 10 years as the story opens and their easy dialog with each other along with other touches makes that relationship and each other very believable.  Bo and Cy have the authenticity of a long term couple still very much in love. After reading the author’s bio, I could almost feel Cade bringing experiences from his own long term relationship into the portrait he paints here of Bo and Cy so grounded and real do they feel.  Next to them are their two friends, Lockhart Dawson, who seems shallow and commitment phobic, and Duff, who is psychic, shy, and hiding many secrets behind his insecurities.  Both men have background and secrets that will come out over the course of the story that will bring the reader much closer to Duff and Lockey.  Cade’s characterizations are terrific, but the ones I truly loved are the ones that will surprise you.  I won’t go into them here as I feel that is spoiler territory but let’s just say that other characters will hook you in from the beginning and,  like the mournful refrain from a mountain folksong, will haunt the pages and the reader from then on. Bravos all around for the author on characterization and character development.

The characters are thrown into the middle of a heartbreaking and deeply dangerous mystery located in the depths of Ruby Lode, an abandoned gold mine.  Cade skillfully builds the atmosphere in spine tingling detail, amping up the anxiety and dread for the characters we have come to love until it explodes in a gut wrenching finale.  Parts of this story are not for the fainthearted so please take the warnings at the beginning to heart. At first, I was tempted to think it was emotional overload on the author’s part but as the story continued I could see that Cade had a justification for its inclusion, and it all made sense in the end.  Again I am being obtuse to reduce any chance for a spoiler here.

While my expertise in gold mines is limited to Maryland’s (yes, we had a few), I can tell Cade did his research and the settings seem very authentic right down to the equipment and mine layouts.  The supernatural elements explored here are accomplished with the same expertise and deft touches displayed throughout the novel. I loved how these elements were woven into the stories, starting with mere threads in the beginning, adding one here and there until Cade has fashioned a old time storytelling quilt, colorful with basic patterns turned into designs of complexity. Parts of this book will have you in tears so have the tissues handy as you will need them.

So why not five stars?  It all comes down to one character who I absolutely disliked right to the end.  I understood him and his actions but that never translated into anything even remotely approaching “like”, especially his actions at the end.  I am sure others will not agree with me and for you this is a solid 5 stars. So 4.75 stars from me for just an outstanding read from Scotty Cade.  You will love it as I am just quibbling over another well done character.  Grab this one up.

Cover:  Another favorite cover of the month for me.  The artist is Reese Dante whose work I love and this is another example.  Beautiful haunting painting of the insides of an abandoned mine.  Perfection in tone and coloring.  I love it.

The Week Ahead in Reviews and a Great Salad for Anytime of the Year

Standard

The old adage of if you don’t like the weather, just wait five minutes has always applied to Maryland but never more so than in the last few years.  Where once you could count on May being like May and June acting sensibly like June,  all the months now seem to pull on each others characteristics like a kid trying on their parents clothes.  Frigid one day, boiling the next, mildly cool, then outstandingly gorgeous. Today is one of those days where we have tumbled into August almost overnight.  It will be in the 90’s today so this morning I have been making sure all the bird baths are clean and full as I know they will get a workout by all the robins, catbirds, chickadees, and everyone else who favors my yard with their constant flutterings.  The hummingbird feeders have been changed and the dogs have done their run in the backyard, finished until this evening.

This is Fae Awareness Month so my contribution was a blog called The Sexy Fae of Lost Girl about Lost Girl the SyFy TV series I am addicted to.  Find it here!

I don’t know about you but when the days get hot, I long for salads and meals that are light. I just made a wonderful salad that is perfect to serve year around.  Look for it after  the schedule for the week.  Have a great Sunday!

Monday:                     Don’t Judge A Book by Scarlett Blackwell

Tuesday:                     On The Trail to Moonlight Gulch by Shelter Somerset

Wednesday:               Mystery of Ruby Lode by Scotty Cade

Thursday:                   Ensnared by Dawn H. Hawkes

Friday:                         Lessons in Temptation (Cambridge Fellows #5) by Charlie Cochrane

Saturday:                     Reviewer surprise (Which Means I Can’t Make My Mind Up)

Green Goddess Salad

Ingredients:

3 tablespoons cider vinegar
1 tablespoon minced shallot
1 small garlic clove, minced
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
Salt
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
3/4 cup canola oil
Freshly ground pepper
1 large seedless cucumber, thinly sliced
1 1/2 teaspoons thyme leaves
3 large hard-cooked eggs, quartered
1/2 pound feta cheese, crumbled
2 heads of Bibb or butter lettuce, torn into large pieces
1/2 pound haricots verts

Directions (Serves 6, 30 mins to make):

1. In a medium saucepan of salted boiling water, cook the haricots verts until crisp-tender, about 4 minutes. Drain and cool under running water; pat dry.

2. In a mini processor, combine the shallot, garlic, mustard, cider vinegar and lemon juice and process until smooth. With the machine on, add the canola oil in a thin stream. Add the thyme and pulse until minced. Season with salt and pepper.

3. In a large bowl, combine the torn lettuce, crumbled feta, sliced cucumber, quartered eggs and haricots verts. Add three-fourths of the dressing and toss to coat. Drizzle with the remaining dressing and serve. If you anticipate having some left over, than consider putting the dressing on the side so the salad doesn’t wilt.
MAKE AHEAD The dressing and haricots verts can be refrigerated for up to 3 days.