Monday, January 30, 2017

#BookReview: Passion Never Dies by Anna Durand #PNR

Passion Never Dies: The Complete Reborn Series by Anna Durand

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

In March 2014, Anna Durand introduced a unique new series of paranormal romance novellas. For the first time ever, all four tales in the Reborn series are collected in one book.

Dawn woke up drowning, inside a tank in a laboratory straight out of a science fiction movie. Blinded by amnesia, she has no choice but to trust in the alluring stranger who pulls her out of the tank, but Jake Maxwell knows more than he cares to admit. Now Redeo Biotech, the company responsible for Dawn's resurrection, is hunting them both.

As their passion for each other blossoms, Jake and Dawn must outwit their enemies and rediscover their past lives. But when their greatest foe rises from the ashes of ancient Egypt bent on vengeance, only Jake and Dawn's eternal connection has the power to save them.

This collection includes the novellas Reborn to Die, Reborn to Burn, Reborn to Avenge, and Reborn to Conquer.

My Review:
Dawn wakes up in a tank filled with blue liquid, not remembering her name or her past or how she ended up in a laboratory with a handsome man who insists she needs to follow him quickly before the scientists return to find them. That scene begins an adventurous and romantic tale about a woman who has been resurrected from a 3000 year-old mummy.

When I read the description about this book, I knew instantly that I wanted to read it. A romance involving a mummy? That seemed right up my alley. I love a good paranormal romance with a unique twist and this book did not disappoint. The fast-paced action was intense as Dawn and Jake raced to escape the scientists and their military-like security. One turn after another, they were barely out of danger before another danger arose, leaving a breathless reader who couldn't stop turning the pages. I read this book in less than 3 days, which for my busy schedule is fairly quick these days. But, I really couldn't put this book down. The chapters are short and end with cliffhangers which kept convincing me that I could read just one more page, just one more chapter before I had to put it down.

Passion Never Dies is an exciting tale that won't disappoint readers looking for a unique and action-oriented romance. It was interesting to discover more about Dawn and how she came to be revived. I liked the explanations for her understanding of modern day devices, too. I enjoyed learning about her past and her experiences in ancient Egypt.

There are a few things that might stretch the limits of believability in this story, such as the number of times someone died and was brought back to life or the chance encounters with characters who recall their inter-connected past-life memories, but considering the plot is about a 3000 year-old mummy being brought back to life via a combination of science, technology and magic, I'm willing to overlook it. Besides, this story was just too much fun to read! In my opinion, this reminds me of a combination of a day-time soap opera and the sci-fi TV series, Stargate, SG1. And I mean that in the best possible comparisons.

I didn't realize, however, until I began reading that this book was originally a type of serial, which explains many of the repeated explanations to get readers caught up with the story in each section. I'm feel fortunate that I read this completed addition, so I did not have to wait for each installment. Not having the entire collection at once would've annoyed me. I'm the type of reader who will wait until an author completes a trilogy before reading all the books back to back. Of course, that's just me, but I know there are other readers out there who feel the same. If that's the case, then this book is for you!

Monday, January 16, 2017

#BookReview: Holly and Hopeful Hearts by Bluestocking Belles #Regency #Romance

Holly and Hopeful Hearts: A Bluestocking Belles Collection by Bluestocking Belles

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

When Duchess of Haverford sends out invitations to a Yuletide house party and a New Year’s Eve ball at her country estate, Hollystone Hall, those who respond know that Her Grace intends to raise money for her favorite cause and promote whatever marriages she can. Eight assorted heroes and heroines set out with their pocketbooks firmly clutched and hearts in protective custody. Or are they?

The Bluestocking Belles are proud to present eight never before published novellas centered on the Duchess of Haverford's ball. Her favorite cause is also one dear to the hearts of the Bluestocking Belles, women's education. 25% of all proceeds will be donated to the Malala Fund.

Story Blurbs & My Review:

I truly enjoyed reading this collection of short stories. There were some amazing tales in here that I plan to read again and again. They're charming, sweet and romantic. A lovely book to read during the holidays! Because of the variety of these stories, I've reviewed each individually below.

Valuing Vanessa by Susana Ellis ★★★
Facing a dim future as a spinster under her mother’s thumb, Vanessa Sedgely makes a practical decision to attach an amiable gentleman who will not try to rule her life.
This was a sweet romance between Vanessa Sedgely and George Durand. Although, I loved the rich historical detail and dialogue of this story, I didn't feel there was much conflict between the main characters. Their love story was short and brief, their relationship easily resolved. I enjoyed reading about George's spunky daughter, Louise. She more than stole the story with her antics. But, even she accepted her future step-mother far too easily. I would've like to see her protest more.

A Kiss for Charity by Sherry Ewing ★★★★
Young widow Grace, Lady de Courtenay, has no idea how a close encounter with a rake at a masquerade ball would make her yearn for love again.
This story was deftly woven with the previous story where we get to see the viewpoint of Lord Nicholas Lacey and Grace, Lady de Courtenay. I fell in love with Lord Nicholas on the first page of this tale. Haunted by the death of his beloved wife, he's avoided society for two years until his brother-in-law, George Durand, drags him from seclusion. Eventually, he meets a mysterious woman at a masquerade with whom he shares an instant attraction.

With the encouragement of her friend, Moriah, Grace sneaks off to a masquerade where she enjoys an adventurous night flirting with a provocative gentleman. While they share a kiss, she fears letting him know her identity, afraid of his bad opinion of her wanton behavior. Grace runs away into the night before he can discover any more about her.

Months later, they meet again. Despite the fact they didn't view each other's faces because of the masks, they are both able to identify each other because of their intense attraction.

Despite the courtship being riddled with misunderstandings, I enjoyed reading this sweet romance. The characters were well-written and likeable. Even the secondary characters, such as Grace's brother and sister, were a joy to read. It was interesting to see how this story was blended seamlessly with the first. I look forward to reading more from this author.

Artemis by Jessica Cale ★★★★★
Actress Charlotte Halfpenny is in trouble. Pregnant, abandoned by her lover, and out of a job, Charlotte faces eviction two weeks before Christmas. When the reclusive Earl of Somerton makes her an outrageous offer, she has no choice but to accept. Could he be the man of her dreams, or is the nightmare just beginning?
Charlotte Halfpenny is an actress who has lost her job, lost her home and lost her lover. And she's pregnant. Charlotte is not in a good way at the beginning of this story. She knows finding work is hopeless with her tainted reputation and who would hire an actress who is far older than what society deems desirable? She's standing on the edge of a bridge looking into a deep, dark river when a gentleman arrives in a carriage to offer her another option. Curious, and not really wanting to die, she agrees to hear his proposal.

Apollo Rothschild, the Earl of Somerton, is in need of an heir. Seeing that he can't have children of his own, and learning that the beautiful Charlotte Halfpenny is pregnant and in need of assistance, he offers to wed her if she agrees to claim the child is his. Since her choices are extremely limited, she sees no other alternative but to agree to his proposal. However, the more she learns of the man, the more she feels for him and his situation. The mystery surrounding the Earl of Somerton isn't a simple one. The closer she gets to him, the closer she gets to his secret. A secret no one must discover.

This story was amazing! Typically, the stories I read are about the gentleman and ladies of the ton, but here's a heroine who is an actress with nothing left her to name. Despite everything she's gone through, all the choices both good and bad that she's had to make, she still holds her head high. It doesn't matter that she knows the ugly things people say about her, she does the best that she possibly can in the situation she's in to survive. I admired Charlotte and the strength of her character to continue to do good deeds when she could've easily become a bitter and jaded woman.

And the Earl of Somerton… What can I really say about him without giving too much away? He's a gentleman above reproach, able to give Charlotte anything she desires. He's kind, considerate, thoughtful and intelligent. I fell in love with him right along with Charlotte. He's a tortured soul with enemies who are eager to see him gone. Despite that, he does everything he can to protect Charlotte.

The ending was simply beautiful! I admit, I had my suspicions about the twist at the end. I don't want to give anything away, but I was so pleased that everything worked out just the way it did. This was a beautifully romantic tale that was both unusual and delightful! This is one story that I'll enjoy rereading again. I greatly admire Ms. Cale's storytelling abilities. She's definitely on my list of authors to read!

The Bluestocking and the Barbarian by Jude Knight ★★★★★
James must marry to please his grandfather, the duke, and to win social acceptance for himself and his father’s other foreign-born children. But only Lady Sophia Belvoir makes his heart sing, and to win her he must invite himself to spend Christmas at the home of his father’s greatest enemy.
James Winderfield, Lord Elfingham is probably one of the most romantic heroes that I've ever read. He's handsome, devoted and passionate. When he falls in love, that love is forever. James needs to marry. His grandfather has chosen potential wives for James to marry that would aid them with social acceptance for his foreign-born siblings, but James insists he will marry only for love when he stumbles upon Sophia Belvoir. He makes every effort to learn more about her. He places himself in the same events and social venues that she attends to get closer to her. Rumors abound in society and everyone, including Sophia, thinks he is courting her younger sister, Felicity. Being older and "on the shelf," she doesn’t see herself as a potential wife for a man who will one day become a duke. She has low self-esteem when she compares herself to her younger sister who is everything she is not. But, James isn't interested in Felicity other than being the sister of the woman he loves and intends to marry. Eventually, Felicity aids him in winning Sophia's love, but at a moment when Sophia believes it might be too late.

These characters were beautifully described, both the main characters and the secondary. They were well-rounded and each had a distinct personality and goal. The descriptions of the James's unique background was entertaining as he explained the differences in their holiday celebrations. The dialogue between James and Sophia was believable and engaging.

This story was s joy to read! In my opinion, the stories in this anthology just get better and better!

Christmas Kisses by Nicole Zoltack ★★★
Louisa Wycliff, Dowager Countess of Exeter wants only for her darling daughter, Anna, to find a man she can love and marry. Appallingly, Anna has her sights on a scoundrel of a duke who chases after every skirt he sees. Anna truly thinks the dashing duke cares for her, but her mother has her doubts.
I liked the beginning of this story. From the start we are introduced to the main characters and their problems. It was a great beginning and I was interested to learn more about these people. However, the flashbacks to her mother's past pulled me out of the story. This is just my opinion, but I think the story would have been fine without the flashbacks. I was eager to learn more about Anna and Jasper. I especially wondered why Jasper was going through a troubled time, as his mother put it. I knew there had to be a reason for his constant scowling and his rude behavior, the way Anna saw him. All in all, this was a sweet romance.

An Open Heart by Caroline Warfield ★★★
Esther Baumann longs for a loving husband who will help her create a home where they will teach their children to value the traditions of their people, but she wants a man who is also open to new ideas and happy to make friends outside their narrow circle. Is it so unreasonable to ask for toe curling passion as well?
This was a sweet story about Esther Bauman and Adam Halevy. While Adam is on a mission in France, his thoughts are constantly returning to Esther, the woman he left behind. Once he returns to England, he races to Hollingstone Hall where Esther is attending a social gathering for the holidays.

I enjoyed reading this story. It seemed a little short compared to some of the others, but that might be because the main characters were already attracted to each other at the beginning of the story. They knew each other, but never admitted their love for one another until the end.

Dashing Through the Snow by Amy Rose Bennett ★★★★★
Headstrong bluestocking, Miss Kate Woodville, never thought her Christmas would be spent racing across England with a viscount hell-bent on vengeance. She certainly never expected to find love...
Kate Woodville is a teacher and the sister of Freddie, a war hero who will one day inherit his uncle's title and estate. However, because of their gambling father, Kate and Freddie grew up poor. Freddie meets Violet Lockhart and the two fall madly in love with each other. Violet's family doesn't approve of poor Freddie thinking he is after the family's fortune. Anthony Lockhart, Lord Stanton, makes it clear to Kate that he wants Freddie to stay away from his sister, Violet, even going so far as to pay Freddie off. It doesn't work. Freddie and Violet secretly plan to elope to Gretna Green to marry. The plan is put into motion on the way to Hollystone Hall for the holidays. Freddie and Violet run off leaving both Kate and Lord Stanton behind. Furious, Lord Stanton demands that Kate accompanies him as they chase after the lovers intent on stopping them from marrying. The weather has other plans and hinders their pursuit. Along the way, Kate's harsh opinion of Lord Stanton softens until she begins to see him in a completely different light. Against her own wishes, she begins to fall in love with him. Lord Stanton also has a change of heart as he learns more about Kate Woodville and the woman she truly is instead of the person he assumed she was. Knowing they can't catch their siblings in time to stop the marriage, they concede defeat and arrive at Kate's uncle's home, Fenwick House. Here, Kate and Anthony share a kiss beneath the mistletoe that changes them both forever.

This was a thoroughly fun story to read! I loved the well-written characters, both the main and secondary, and the difficulties they faced. Both the hero and heroine had flaws that made them believable and all the more enjoyable to read. Anthony's anger and disdain along with Kate's low opinion of Lord Stanton kept me turning the pages to find out what happened next. I loved the interaction and the dialogue between these two. This story was far more sensual than the others in this anthology, of which I happily approve! I would've loved to see this as a longer story. I look forward to reading more from this author.

A Suitable Husband by Jude Knight ★★★
As the Duchess of Haverford’s companion, Cedrica Grenford is not treated as a poor relation and is encouraged to mingle with Her Grace’s guests. Perhaps among the gentlemen gathered for the duchess’s house party, she will find a suitable husband?
A sweetly romantic story about Cedrica Grenford and Marcel Fournier. It was a charming story and I liked the characters, but I had some trouble reading it. For me, this story was difficult to read since it was broken up in chapters between the other stories in this anthology. I understand this was a creative endeavor, but it made reading the story challenging. Every time I started a new chapter, I had to refer to the last one to remind myself where these characters were last. This might not have been an issue if I had read the entire book in a short sitting, but I don't read as fast as I used to and it took me a while to get through this book, especially since I was reading it during the busy holiday season. If I read this book again, I would just skip pages and read this particular story in its entirety to enjoy the characters, the setting and the romance.

View all my reviews

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Breaking the Write Rules #IWSG #writing

The first Wednesday of every month is officially Insecure Writer’s Support Group day.
The Purpose: To share and encourage. Writers can express doubts and concerns without fear of appearing foolish or weak. Those who have been through the fire can offer assistance and guidance. It’s a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds!

IWSG Asks: What writing rule do you wish you’d never heard?


Everybody's got them.

Every job requires them.

However, some rules are flexible, yes?

When it comes to writing there are some rules that you really should follow, but inevitably there comes along a rule that just doesn't sit well. 

In my case it's the rule Write What You Know

This is a rule that I heard when I was a young lass just beginning to research the writing craft. Even as a rebellious youth, this rule bothered me.

As a teenager, I had dozens ideas for stories, but none of them were focused around stuff that I knew. I was just a kid in school doing kid stuff. Sure, I wrote my own version of Nancy Drew, my stories usually centered around a young girl around my age getting into some manner of mischief with her friends. 

But, I had other story ideas, too. Many involving stuff that I didn't know much about. So, did that mean I shouldn't write them? I was determined, however, to stretch my writing muscles. I wanted to write. About anything. About everything.

That's what libraries were research the stuff that I didn't know.  Of course, nowadays, we have the benefit of the internet, but I'm going way back when I didn't even have a computer! (gasp)

During my writing infancy, I began by writing stories involving Native American Indians. I was avidly interested in the tribes that once lived in my neck of the woods, but when I started out I knew basically nothing about them aside from a few stories I had read. Those stories had sparked an interest in me so I began researching more about them. I borrowed or bought every book I could find from libraries and bookstores. I visited every museum in the area and bombarded the people who worked there with many questions. I discovered local landmarks where Indian attacks on settlers took place or areas that were said to have once been villages. I also attended and participated in local Indian Pow-wows that popped up during the summers. I danced in the friendship dances, I spoke with Natives about their culture and history, I even began teaching myself some of their language both spoken and sign language. It was fun and exciting to learn about an entire group of people that my school only briefly mentioned once in a while around Thanksgiving...most of which was not even true.

I spent years researching until I felt comfortable writing stories from an American Indian's perspective as well as setting the stories during the Colonial Days of Pennsylvania. After all, my stories were historical.

If I had followed the advise of simply writing what I knew, then I might've stuck with writing young adult stories involving the drama of teenaged angst. Since, at that time, that was all I really knew. 

Writing what I didn't know opened a whole new world to me as well as a new perspective on life. It started me on a path that snowballed into a love of learning that was incomparable to anything the schools could teach me. 

I guess, after all, some rules are made to be broken. 

Be sure to visit the other writers in the 

I write sensual paranormal and historical romances. Interested in learning more about my stories? Sign-up for my newsletter where you'll learn about my new book releases, updates on my works-in-progress, writing tips, book reviews, contests, and other fun book-related info!
Happy Writing!

Sunday, January 1, 2017

New Goals for 2017 - Author Update #newyear #resolutions

With the start of a New Year, comes a time of reflection and planning. We often look back over the last year to evaluate what we've achieved or didn't achieve. Then we look forward to the coming year and the infinite possibilities that it brings.

Good-bye 2016

From what I understand, 2016 has been an extremely tough year for many of us for different reasons. Aside from the long list of celebrity deaths that seemed to occur on a clockwork basis, I've talked to many people who've had a rough year, too. From losing jobs to failing health, there are many of my friends who needed some extra prayers and positive thoughts sent their way to help them cope. 

In the Schneider household, we had our share of difficulties. My husband was in a motorcycle accident and had 2 separate surgeries, all of which put him out of work with no pay. Not such an easy thing for a growing family. I won't even begin to discuss the most recent discovery of the theft of royalties from the ARe debacle. You can read about that here and here. That hit many authors, publishers and readers quite severely. To add to the struggle of having a reduced income was the string of bad luck concerning our appliances. The list of broken down appliances is almost amusing. Two air conditioners, a dehumidifier for an overly damp basement and the washing machine broke down exactly a week prior to the dryer as if they had conspired together to make life as challenging as possible for us. I've been spending a small fortune at the local laundromat for several months. I'm there with my kids several hours each week to clean clothes for 6 people. If I had the chance to save that money instead, I might've been able to buy 3 or 4 washers and dryers by now. 

C'est la vie. 

On the bright side, I've managed to keep a positive outlook on every negative thing that happened using my talent of viewing the world through rose-colored glasses. In addition to that, there were some good things that happened in 2016, too. I dipped my toes into a new romance genre this year. The Pirate's Lady was published in November, my first historical romance with nary a hint of a paranormal element present. It was quite an accomplishment for me and it was educational to work with a new-to-me editor.

Also, I completed NaNoWriMo for the first time. Well, actually the second time. I completed it with a 65,000 word gothic novel the first year I joined the challenge, but never had the chance to verify the word count since my computer crashed on the last day of November. This year, I managed 52,209 words for Loving Boone, my newest WIP and it was verified.

Reviewing the lovely word count tracker that I obtained from the talented Svenja Gosen last year, I wrote a total of 97,485 words during 2016. Just a little shy of my goal of 100,000 words, but I'll take it. Besides writing most of Loving Boone, I'm in the midst of writing an untitled alien romance which is where most of the other words came from and I edited and revised an untitled paranormal romance featuring zombies.

Not too bad.

Goals for 2017

Looking forward to a new year brings with it a list of new goals. I have some personal goals such as finish incomplete projects around the house, get better organized and try to teach my kids better organization (I can hear parents laughing as you read this!), as well as some goals I didn't finish last year. I want to further my study of the German language and my guitar lessons sort of got set aside. I'm teaching myself to play and my 20 month-old son loves music and thinks my guitar is a toy for him to play with. Trying to find the right notes at the same time as keeping his little paws off the instrument presents a unique challenge.

As for my writing... 

I found my writing groove during NaNo this last November. I write during my son's afternoon nap time. That gives me about an hour or two each day to work in relative peace and quiet (at least on the days the rest of my brood is in school). I write new words in the afternoon and work on edits in the morning or at night.

If I plan it correctly, I have the opportunity for a productive year.

  • Edit and/or revise Loving Boone
  • Finish writing the first draft of the Untitled Alien Romance
  • Complete edits for the Untitled Paranormal Romance with Zombies
  • Write a new novella for Camp NaNo 2017
  • Write a new novel for NaNoWriMo 2017
  • And, of course, I have a long list of books that I'd like to read and review 

I have a few other WIP's that might join this list later in the year. I'm also considering joining the self-published author community this year. The wonderfully successful spec-fic author and my dear friend, Ash Krafton, has offered to help me through this big step in my career once I was ready. I'm thinking this year I might take the plunge. 

Here's hoping everyone enjoys a Healthy, Happy and Prosperous 2017!

Happy New Year!