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Sunday, December 30, 2018

Book Review: The Captive Maiden by Melanie Dickerson




The Captive Maiden (Hagenheim #4) by Melanie Dickerson
Genre: Young Adult  (Christian Fiction/Historical Fiction/Romance/Fractured Fairy Tale)
Date Published: November 23, 2013
Publisher: Zondervan

Happily Ever After...Or Happily Nevermore? 

Gisela's childhood was filled with laughter and visits from nobles such as the duke and his young son. But since her father's death, each day has been filled with nothing but servitude to her stepmother. So when Gisela meets the duke's son, Valten--the boy she has daydreamed about for years--and learns he is throwing a ball, she vows to attend, even if it's only for a taste of a life she'll never have. To her surprise, she catches Valten's eye. Though he is rough around the edges, Gisela finds Valten has completely captured her heart. But other forces are bent on keeping the two from falling further in love, putting Gisela in more danger than she ever imagined.

The Captive Maiden is the fourth book in the Hagenheim series by Melanie Dickerson. This book reminded me of the movie Ever After quite a bit. Which makes sense, since it's a retelling of Cinderella. I loved the jousting scenes and the fact that horses were a big part of the main character's lives. Gisela plays damsel in distress well, but she also holds her own. Valten gets his fairy tale story. Yay! I loved getting to know him. There was action and cuteness, and the two blended well together within this this story. 


When she was still seven, and before her father died, the Duke of Hagenheim and his oldest son, Valten, had come to buy a horse from her father, because, as Father said, he bred and raised the best horses in the region. Valten wanted a war horse, a destrier that would serve him as he practiced jousting and other war games.

The two of them, Duke Wilhelm and his son, rode up the lane to her house. Duke Wilhelm and her father greeted each other like old friends. The duke’s son was fourteen, and Gisela had been seven. Valten was already quite as tall as her father and broad-shouldered. She remembered his hair was blond, and he’d looked at her with keen eyes and a sober expression.

Within the first moments, she decided she did not like him. He had come to take one of her horses away, and worst of all, this boy meant to ride her horse in the lists. She didn’t want one of her horses competing in the dangerous joust, risking serious injuries with each charge.

But the boy and his father treated the horses gently and respectfully. From several feet away she had watched as they examined all the youngest destriers. By the time the duke’s son made his choice, Gisela realized he would love the horse, would take care of him. The horse would have many adventures with the duke’s son, more than Gisela could give him.

As their fathers settled their price, Gisela watched Valten — she was supposed to call him Lord Hamlin, as he was the Earl of Hamlin, but she thought his given name suited him better — as the young earl rubbed the horse’s nose and cheek and talked softly to him.

“He likes carrots.”

Valten turned and looked at her. “Then I shall make sure he gets some.”

Have you read other books in this series?

Check out my review of another book by this author!

author
Melanie Dickerson is a two-time Christy Award finalist, two-time Maggie Award winner, Carol Award winner, two-time winner of the Christian Retailing's Best award, and her book, The Healer's Apprentice, won the National Readers Choice Award for Best First Book. She is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW) and Romance Writers of America (RWA). Melanie earned a bachelors degree in special education of the hearing impaired from The University of Alabama and has worked as a teacher in Georgia, Tennessee, and Ukraine. She lives with her husband and two children in Huntsville, Alabama.

To learn more about Melanie Dickerson and her books, visit her website.You can also find her on GoodreadsFacebookGoogle+, Pinterest, Instagram, and Twitter.

Friday, December 28, 2018

Book Review: A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas




A Court of Thorns and Roses (A Court of Thorns and Roses #1) by Sarah J. Maas 
Genre: New Adult (Fantasy Romance)
Date Published: May 5, 2015
Publisher: Bloomsbury USA Childrens

Feyre's survival rests upon her ability to hunt and kill – the forest where she lives is a cold, bleak place in the long winter months. So when she spots a deer in the forest being pursued by a wolf, she cannot resist fighting it for the flesh. But to do so, she must kill the predator and killing something so precious comes at a price ...

Dragged to a magical kingdom for the murder of a faerie, Feyre discovers that her captor, his face obscured by a jewelled mask, is hiding far more than his piercing green eyes would suggest. Feyre's presence at the court is closely guarded, and as she begins to learn why, her feelings for him turn from hostility to passion and the faerie lands become an even more dangerous place. Feyre must fight to break an ancient curse, or she will lose him forever.




A Court of Thorns and Roses is the first book in the A Court of Thorns and Roses series by Sarah J. Maas. I kept hearing how great this book was, and I finally read it! The one thing I didn't hear was that it was a dark, fairy retelling of Beauty and the Beast, so that made me like it all the more. The characters were fantastic. I'm seriously a fan of all of them. They each brought something different to the story. Feyre is a strong and intelligent female lead. I could easily see this turning into a love triangle, and I'm okay with that in this case.. I think. I'm at least open to the idea, because the more I got to know the characters involved, the more I liked them. These characters aren't simple. They have a lot of depth. The story isn't simple either. There is so much going on that kept my attention, both on the surface and behind the scenes. I truly can't say enough good things about it. It was well thought out from start to finish.


Chapter 1

The forest had become a labyrinth of snow and ice.

I'd been monitoring the parameters of the thicket for an hour, and my vantage point in the crook of a tree branch had turned useless. The gusting wind blew thick flurries to sweep away my tracks, but buried along with them any signs of potential quarry.

Hunger had brought me farther from home than I usually risked, but winter was the hard time. The animals had pulled in, going deeper into the woods than I could follow, leaving me to pick off stragglers one by one, praying they'd last until spring. They hadn't.

I wiped my numb fingers over my eyes, brushing away the flakes clinging to my lashes. Here there were no telltale trees stripped of bark to mark the deer's passing—they hadn't yet moved on. They would remain until the bark ran out, then travel north past the wolves' territory and perhaps into the faerie lands of Prythian—where no mortals would dare go, not unless they had a death wish.

A shudder skittered down my spine at the thought, and I shoved it away, focusing on my surroundings, on the task ahead. That was all I could do, all I'd been able to do for years: focus on surviving the week, the day, the hour ahead. And now, with the snow, I'd be lucky to spot anything—especially from my position up in the tree, scarcely able to see fifteen feet ahead. Stifling a groan as my stiff limbs protested at the movement, I unstrung my bow before easing off the tree.

The icy snow crunched under my fraying boots, and I ground my teeth. Low visibility, unnecessary noise—I was well on my way to yet another fruitless hunt.

Only a few hours of daylight remained. If I didn't leave soon, I'd have to navigate my way home in the dark, and the warnings of the town hunters still rang fresh in my mind: giant wolves were on the prowl, and in numbers. Not to mention whispers of strange folk spotted in the area, tall and eerie and deadly.

Anything but faeries, the hunters had beseeched our long-forgotten gods—and I had secretly prayed alongside them. In the eight years we'd been living in our village, two days' journey from the immortal border of Prythian, we'd been spared an attack—though traveling peddlers sometimes brought stories of distant border towns left in splinters and bones and ashes. These accounts, once rare enough to be dismissed by the village elders as hearsay, had in recent months become commonplace whisperings on every market day.

I had risked much in coming so far into the forest, but we'd finished our last loaf of bread yesterday, and the remainder of our dried meat the day before. Still, I would have rather spent another night with a hungry belly than found myself satisfying the appetite of a wolf. Or a faerie.

Not that there was much of me to feast on. I'd turned gangly by this time of the year, and could count a good number of my ribs. Moving as nimbly and quietly as I could between the trees, I pushed a hand against my hollow and aching stomach. I knew the expression that would be on my two elder sisters' faces when I returned to our cottage empty-handed yet again.

After a few minutes of careful searching, I crouched in a cluster of snow-heavy brambles. Through the thorns, I had a half-decent view of a clearing and the small brook flowing through it. A few holes in the ice suggested it was still frequently used. Hopefully something would come by. Hopefully.

I sighed through my nose, digging the tip of my bow into the ground, and leaned my forehead against the crude curve of wood. We wouldn't last another week without food. And too many families had already started begging for me to hope for handouts from the wealthier townsfolk. I'd witnessed firsthand exactly how far their charity went.

I eased into a more comfortable position and calmed my breathing, straining to listen to the forest over the wind. The snow fell and fell, dancing and curling like sparkling spindrifts, the white fresh and clean against the brown and gray of the world. And despite myself, despite my numb limbs, I quieted that relentless, vicious part of my mind to take in the snow-veiled woods.

Once it had been second nature to savor the contrast of new grass against dark, tilled soil, or an amethyst brooch nestled in folds of emerald silk; once I'd dreamed and breathed and thought in color and light and shape. Sometimes I would even indulge in envisioning a day when my sisters were married and it was only me and Father, with enough food to go around, enough money to buy some paint, and enough time to put those colors and shapes down on paper or canvas or the cottage walls.

Not likely to happen anytime soon—perhaps ever. So I was left with moments like this, admiring the glint of pale winter light on snow. I couldn't remember the last time I'd done it—bothered to notice anything lovely or interesting.

Stolen hours in a decrepit barn with Isaac Hale didn't count; those times were hungry and empty and sometimes cruel, but never lovely.

The howling wind calmed into a soft sighing. The snow fell lazily now, in big, fat clumps that gathered along every nook and bump of the trees. Mesmerizing—the lethal, gentle beauty of the snow. I'd soon have to return to the muddy, frozen roads of the village, to the cramped heat of our cottage. Some small, fragmented part of me recoiled at the thought.

Bushes rustled across the clearing. Drawing my bow was a matter of instinct. I peered through the thorns, and my breath caught.

Less than thirty paces away stood a small doe, not yet too scrawny from winter, but desperate enough to wrench bark from a tree in the clearing.

A deer like that could feed my family for a week or more.

My mouth watered. Quiet as the wind hissing through dead leaves, I took aim.

She continued tearing off strips of bark, chewing slowly, utterly unaware that her death waited yards away.

I could dry half the meat, and we could immediately eat the rest—stews, pies...Her skin could be sold, or perhaps turned into clothing for one of us. I needed new boots, but Elain needed a new cloak, and Nesta was prone to crave anything someone else possessed.

My fingers trembled. So much food—such salvation. I took a steadying breath, double-checking my aim.

But there was a pair of golden eyes shining from the brush adjacent to mine. The forest went silent. The wind died. Even the snow paused.

We mortals no longer kept gods to worship, but if I had known their lost names, I would have prayed to them. All of them. Concealed in the thicket, the wolf inched closer, its gaze set on the oblivious doe.

He was enormous—the size of a pony—and though I'd been warned about their presence, my mouth turned bone-dry.

But worse than his size was his unnatural stealth: even as he inched closer in the brush, he remained unheard, unspotted by the doe. No animal that massive could be so quiet. But if he was no ordinary animal, if he was of Prythian origin, if he was somehow a faerie, then being eaten was the least of my concerns.

If he was a faerie, I should already be running.

Yet maybe...maybe it would be a favor to the world, to my village, to myself, to kill him while I remained undetected. Putting an arrow through his eye would be no burden.

But despite his size, he looked like a wolf, moved like a wolf. Animal, I reassured myself. Just an animal. I didn't let myself consider the alternative—not when I needed my head clear, my breathing steady.

I had a hunting knife and three arrows. The first two were ordinary arrows—simple and efficient, and likely no more than bee stings to a wolf that size. But the third arrow, the longest and heaviest one, I'd bought from a traveling peddler during a summer when we'd had enough coppers for extra luxuries. An arrow carved from mountain ash, armed with an iron head.

From songs sung to us as lullabies over our cradles, we all knew from infancy that faeries hated iron. But it was the ash wood that made their immortal, healing magic falter long enough for a human to make a killing blow. Or so legend and rumor claimed. The only proof we had of the ash's effectiveness was its sheer rarity. I'd seen drawings of the trees, but never one with my own eyes—not after the High Fae had burned them all long ago. So few remained, most of them small and sickly and hidden by the nobility within high-walled groves. I'd spent weeks after my purchase debating whether that overpriced bit of wood had been a waste of money, or a fake, and for three years, the ash arrow had sat unused in my quiver.

Now I drew it, keeping my movements minimal, efficient—anything to avoid that monstrous wolf looking in my direction. The arrow was long and heavy enough to inflict damage—possibly kill him, if I aimed right.

My chest became so tight it ached. And in that moment, I realized my life boiled down to one question: Was the wolf alone?

I gripped my bow and drew the string farther back. I was a decent shot, but I'd never faced a wolf. I'd thought it made me lucky—even blessed. But now...I didn't know where to hit or how fast they moved. I couldn't afford to miss. Not when I had only one ash arrow.

And if it was indeed a faerie's heart pounding under that fur, then good riddance. Good riddance, after all their kind had done to us. I wouldn't risk this one later creeping into our village to slaughter and maim and torment. Let him die here and now. I'd be glad to end him.

The wolf crept closer, and a twig snapped beneath one of his paws—each bigger than my hand. The doe went rigid. She glanced to either side, ears straining toward the gray sky. With the wolf's downwind position, she couldn't see or smell him.

His head lowered, and his massive silver body—so perfectly blended into the snow and shadows—sank onto its haunches. The doe was still staring in the wrong direction.

I glanced from the doe to the wolf and back again. At least he was alone—at least I'd been spared that much. But if the wolf scared the doe off, I was left with nothing but a starving, oversize wolf—possibly a faerie—looking for the next-best meal. And if he killed her, destroying precious amounts of hide and fat...

If I judged wrongly, my life wasn't the only one that would be lost. But my life had been reduced to nothing but risks these past eight years that I'd been hunting in the woods, and I'd picked correctly most of the time. Most of the time.

The wolf shot from the brush in a flash of gray and white and black, his yellow fangs gleaming. He was even more gargantuan in the open, a marvel of muscle and speed and brute strength. The doe didn't stand a chance.

I fired the ash arrow before he destroyed much else of her.

The arrow found its mark in his side, and I could have sworn the ground itself shuddered. He barked in pain, releasing the doe's neck as his blood sprayed on the snow—so ruby bright.

He whirled toward me, those yellow eyes wide, hackles raised. His low growl reverberated in the empty pit of my stomach as I surged to my feet, snow churning around me, another arrow drawn.

But the wolf merely looked at me, his maw stained with blood, my ash arrow protruding so vulgarly from his side. The snow began falling again. He looked, and with a sort of awareness and surprise that made me fire the second arrow. Just in case—just in case that intelligence was of the immortal, wicked sort.

He didn't try to dodge the arrow as it went clean through his wide yellow eye.

He collapsed to the ground.

Color and darkness whirled, eddying in my vision, mixing with the snow.

His legs were twitching as a low whine sliced through the wind.

Impossible—he should be dead, not dying. The arrow was through his eye almost to the goose fletching.

But wolf or faerie, it didn't matter. Not with that ash arrow buried in his side. He'd be dead soon enough. Still, my hands shook as I brushed off snow and edged closer, still keeping a good distance. Blood gushed from the wounds I'd given him, staining the snow crimson.

He pawed at the ground, his breathing already slowing. Was he in much pain, or was his whimper just his attempt to shove death away? I wasn't sure I wanted to know.

The snow swirled around us. I stared at him until that coat of charcoal and obsidian and ivory ceased rising and falling. Wolf—definitely just a wolf, despite his size.

The tightness in my chest eased, and I loosed a sigh, my breath clouding in front of me. At least the ash arrow had proved itself to be lethal, regardless of who or what it took down.

A rapid examination of the doe told me I could carry only one animal—and even that would be a struggle. But it was a shame to leave the wolf.

Though it wasted precious minutes—minutes during which any predator could smell the fresh blood—I skinned him and cleaned my arrows as best I could. If anything, it warmed my hands. I wrapped the bloody side of his pelt around the doe's death-wound before I hoisted her across my shoulders. It was several miles back to our cottage, and I didn't need a trail of blood leading every animal with fangs and claws straight to me.

Grunting against the weight, I grasped the legs of the deer and spared a final glance at the steaming carcass of the wolf. His remaining golden eye now stared at the snow—heavy sky, and for a moment, I wished I had it in me to feel remorse for the dead thing.

But this was the forest, and it was winter.

author
Sarah J. Maas is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of the Throne of Glass series (Queen of Shadows, Book 4, will be out in September 2015), as well as the A Court of Thorns and Roses series (out 5/5/15).

Sarah lives in Bucks County, PA, and over the years, she has developed an unhealthy appreciation for Disney movies and bad pop music. She adores fairy tales and ballet, drinks too much tea, and watches an ungodly amount of TV. When she's not busy writing, she can be found exploring the historic and beautiful Pennsylvania countryside with her husband and canine companion.

To learn more about Sarah J. Maas and her books, visit her website.You can also find her on GoodreadsInstagram, Pinterest, and Tumblr.

Thursday, December 27, 2018

Book Review: Legendary by Stephanie Garber




Legendary (Caraval #2) by Stephanie Garber
Genre: 
Young Adult (Fantasy/Romance)
Date Published: May 29, 2018
Publisher: Flatiron Books

A heart to protect. A debt to repay. A game to win.

After being swept up in the magical world of Caraval, Donatella Dragna has finally escaped her father and saved her sister, Scarlett, from a disastrous arranged marriage. The girls should be celebrating, but Tella isn’t yet free. She made a desperate bargain with a mysterious criminal, and what Tella owes him no one has ever been able to deliver: Caraval Master Legend’s true name.

The only chance of uncovering Legend’s identity is to win Caraval, so Tella throws herself into the legendary competition once more—and into the path of the murderous heir to the throne, a doomed love story, and a web of secrets…including her sister's. Caraval has always demanded bravery, cunning, and sacrifice, but now the game is asking for more. If Tella can’t fulfill her bargain and deliver Legend’s name, she’ll lose everything she cares about—maybe even her life. But if she wins, Legend and Caraval will be destroyed forever...

Welcome, welcome to Caraval . . . the games have only just begun.


Legendary is the second book in the Caraval trilogy by Stephanie Garber. This time we get Tella's point of view. I was expecting Scarlet, so it took me a minute to adjust, but I enjoyed Tella just as much. Caraval is different this time. It maybe more than a game.. or is it? I'm not saying. Quite honestly, I'm still not sure! I'm not sure about many things actually. Like, I always thought "one true love" meant you're supposed to.. you know... love the person. Isn't it? Scarlet behaved out of character too. Was she playing the game? I didn't expect certain behaviors from her, and there are so many things I have to say about Legend!

But, I cant. They would include spoilers. 

So, basically, the only thing you can expect from this trilogy so far is for something unexpected to happen or be revealed. Sometimes, I knew what was coming, but there were definitely some unexpected moments. I really need the next book to be released now. I need my questions answered!

LEGENDARY PLAYLIST

 Legendary by Welshly Arms

Sail by AWOLNATION

Violet City by Mansionair (confession—I didn’t hear this song until after I finished the book, but I thought it totally fit the scene where Tella first rode in a carriage above Valenda.

Wow by Beck

Nothing Personal by Night Riots

In Cold Blood by alt-J (if you’ve read the book I’m hoping this song will need no explanation)

Way Down We Go by Kaleo

Sorry by Nothing But Thieves (as soon as I heard this song I knew it would go in this book–at first I wasn’t sure where, but I knew it would fit in Legendary somewhere)

Breaking Free by Night Riots (I love this band so I had to put them on here twice)

In A Black Out by Hamilton Leithauser & Rostam (this song could fit so many scenes in the book—I listened to it a lot as I wrote)

Dream by Bishop Briggs

Dangerous Night by Thirty Seconds to Mars

Miracle by CHVRCHES

Never Say Die also by CHVRCHES (another favorite band—so I almost put three songs by them on the list)

White Flag by Bishop Briggs (I had to put Bisho Briggs on here twice because if Tella’s life had a sound track It would be sung by Bishop Briggs)

Check out my review of the first book in this trilogy!

author
My favorite place in the world is Disneyland because it’s the one place on earth where I feel as if the fantastical stories I love to write about could actually come to life.

When I’m not writing, I teach creative writing at a private college in Northern California, where I’ve been known to turn assignments into games and take students on field trips that involve book signings. I’m also a blogger on PUB(LISHING) CRAWL. But I probably spend most of my time on Twitter where I tend to overuse exclamation points and emojis.

To help pay my bills during college, grad school, and the breaks in between, I worked as a barista, a waitress, a bartender, a customer service representative for an energy consulting company, and as a sales girl at Bath and Bodyworks. I also spent years working with youth; I worked as a counselor at space themed summer camp, volunteered at a school for deaf children in Mexico, and I took multiple groups of college students overseas to spend their winter vacations serving at youth hostels in Amsterdam. But out of everything that I’ve done, writing young adult novels has been my favorite job.

My debut YA fantasy novel, Caraval will be published January 2017 (Flatiron Books/Macmillan—US and Hodder & Stoughton—UK). Caraval has sold in twenty-five foriegn territories and the movie rights were pre-empted by Twentieth Century Fox.

To learn more about Stephanie Garber  and her books, visit her website.You can also find her on GoodreadsFacebookInstagramPinterest, and Twitter.

Book Review: Gallowglass by Jennifer Allis Provost




Gallowglass (Gallowglass #1) by Jennifer Allis Provost
Genre: Adult (Fantasy Romance)
Date Published: June 6, 2017
Cover Artist: Deranged Doctor Design
Publisher: Bellatrix Press

Karina didn’t set out to free the Seelie Queen’s gallowglass. Now she’ll do anything to keep him.

After Karina and her brother, Chris’s, lives fall apart in separate yet equally spectacular ways, they leave New York behind and head to the UK. Karina buries herself in research for her doctoral thesis, all the while studiously not thinking about the man who broke her heart, while Chris—who’d been a best-selling author before his ex-fiancĂ©e sued him for plagiarism—drinks his way across the British Isles. 

In Scotland, they visit the grave of Robert Kirk, a seventeenth- century minister who was kidnapped by fairies. No one is more shocked than Karina when a handsome man with a Scottish brogue appears, claiming to be the Robert Kirk of legend. What’s more, he says he spent the last few hundred years as the Gallowglass, the Seelie Queen’s personal assassin. When they’re attacked by demons, Karina understands how dearly the queen wants him back.

As Karina and Robert grow closer, Chris’s attempts to drown his sorrows lead him to a pub, and a woman called Sorcha. Chris is instantly smitten with her, so much so he spends days with Sorcha and lies to his sister about his whereabouts. When Chris comes home covered in fey kisses, Karina realizes that the Seelie Queen isn’t just after Robert.

Can Karina outsmart the Seelie Queen, or is Robert doomed to forever be the Gallowglass?

Gallowglass is the first book in the Gallowglass series by  Jennifer Allis Provost. This story had cute moments, naughty moments, and action moments. It also had quite a bit of down time, and it was hard to stay focused during some of Rina's research ventures. I would have liked something more to happen during those times to hold my attention better. I loved the setting though. Scotland and fae are a definite draw for me. I enjoyed the cute attraction between Robert and Rina. They were pretty adorable and had some steamy moments. I actually thought it read more like a young adult novel until it got to those naughty bits.

Gallowglass by Jennifer Allis Provost was kindly provided to me by Bewitching Book Tours for review. The opinions are my own.


I sped back to the ruined kirk, my knuckles white as I gripped the wheel. The real reason I didn’t get on Chris about his constant mooning over Olivia was that at least he and Olivia had had something. I’d had nothing with Jared. No it hadn’t quite been nothing, but it may as well have been. One thing that Chris and I had both learned on this trip is that an ocean is not nearly enough distance to outrun your past.
I parked in the kirk’s tourist lot, leapt out of the rental and ran across the bridge and up the fairy hill, startling some of the local wildlife along the way. When I reached the Minister’s Pine I was panting, my heart pounding as sweat poured down my back.
I had to find that quartz. I just had to.
I dropped to my knees and felt around near the base of the tree. I found my brush rather quickly, along with my hairclip and the stupidly expensive Mont Blanc pen that my advisor had given me when I earned my masters degree. But the quartz, the quartz wasn’t anywhere. The bits of lunch I’d had turned to lead in my stomach; if the quartz was gone, then it was really, truly over.
“Lookin’ for this, are ye now?”
I turned toward the voice, blinked, and pushed my glasses up to my forehead. Yeah, he was really there. Standing in front of me was a tall man in what I assumed was period dress. Instead of a kilt—we American girls tend to think that all Scotsmen run around in kilts, no matter the occasion; sadly, this is not the case—he was wearing a padded brown leather coat topped with chain mail, along with matching brown pants and well-worn leather boots. A helmet was tucked under his arm, and I could see the hilt of a claymore, one of those medieval broadswords that were so heavy you had to swing it with two hands, poking up over his shoulder. A shield rested next to the sword’s hilt, its curved edge just visible above the man’s shoulder.
I hadn’t realized they did reenactments at Doon Hill, and I made a mental note to check the brochure for show times. I also noticed that the actor had his hand extended, with my lump of rose quartz sitting on his open palm.
“Yes!” I got to my feet, and grabbed the stone. “Thank you,” I said once I remembered my manners, stroking the stone with my thumb. The man looked at me intently, his expression wavering somewhere between confusion and curiosity. “What made you think it was mine?”
“Saw ye drop it, I did,” he replied.
“And you’ve been waiting here since then?”
“I knew ye would be back for me.”
I blinked, since I must have misunderstood his accent. What I’d heard as ‘me’ must have really been ‘it’. Accents do tend to garble words. “I really appreciate you waiting for me. Thank you,” I said, extending my hand.
He eyed my hand, dark brows low over his blue eyes. Then he grasped my fingers and brought them toward his mouth.
“What are you doing?” I snapped, snatching my hand away.
“I thought ye wanted me to kiss your hand,” he explained.
“I wanted to shake your hand!” He looked befuddled rather than offended, so I attributed this to yet another cultural misunderstanding. It was becoming quite the list. “Well, regardless, thank you. I’m Rina.”
“Rina,” he repeated, that Scottish brogue of his making my nickname sound positively decadent. “’Tis quite an unusual name.”
“It’s short for Karina,” I explained. “Karina Siobhan Stewart,” I added, wondering why I’d felt compelled to give him my full name. Historically I’d only been called Karina Siobhan when I was in trouble.
“And I am Robert Kirk,” he said, extending his hand. This guy was way deep in character, like method actor deep. I shook his hand, and we both smiled.
“Good to meet you, Mr. Kirk.”
“Reverend Kirk,” he corrected.
“My apologies, Reverend Kirk.” These reenactors sure liked to stick to their roles, though I’d never expected to see a reverend wearing chain mail. We stood there for a moment, holding hands and grinning like a couple of fools, and I took the time to really look at him. He was older than me, probably a bit older than Chris too, with dark, tousled hair, chiseled features, and a roguish glint in his blue eyes. They had obviously picked reenactors that would appeal to the ladies.
“Do no’ fash, Karina lass, no offense was taken,” he murmured, and my cheeks were suddenly hot. I took back my hand, barely resisting the urge to fan myself.
“I should be going,” I said. “My brother’s waiting for me.” I scanned the area around the Minister’s Pine, ascertained that I’d left nothing else of import behind, and turned toward the path. A hand on my arm stopped me.
“Ye canna leave me here,” the reenactor said. “Ye must take me with ye.”
“What? No!” I faced him, planting my feet before him and whipping out my cell phone. “I don’t know what goes on here in Scotland, but I’m an American citizen. Stay back, or I’ll call 911.” I didn’t even know if they had 911 in Scotland. Would I have to call Scotland Yard instead? I hoped my phone had some kind of app for international emergencies. I waved my phone in what I hoped was a menacing manner, and Robert—or whatever his name was—eyed it as if it would bite him.
“Put away your tricks, lass,” he said. “It was ye what called me here in the first place.”
I shook my head. “This is an act, right? Reverend Kirk, freed at long last from the Minister’s Pine?”
“’Tis no act, lass. Would that it were.” He stepped closer, and took my hands in both of his. Robert’s hands were warm and callused, and, despite all this nonsense, comforting. “I am Robert Kirk himself, and ye have freed me no from just a tree, but from Elphame, and the Seelie Queen herself.”
“Elphame?” I asked.
“Aye,” he replied. “Some refer to it as the Fairy Realm.”
I leaned against the Minister’s Pine. He claimed he was from Elphame. Of course he was. How did I always attract the weirdos?
It was generally agreed that when magic left the world, it was because the fairy realm had closed its doors to humans. Some claimed that human industrialization, and its rampant use of iron, had caused the fae to retreat, while others claimed the global shift from pagan to monotheistic faiths was the culprit. No matter which theory you favored, the end result was the same; there was no new magic. For hundreds of years humans had made do with a few crumbling artifacts and enchanted items, but those items were wearing out too. It was as if magic had a half-life, and we’d long since passed the middle point.
“You can’t be from Elphame,” I said. “It’s closed. It’s been closed for centuries.”
“Has it, now? I will say this, when I was a boy the land was thick with magic. Ye could hardly walk the roads without encountering one o’ the Good People.”
“When you were a boy,” I repeated, then I remembered that Robert Kirk had lived in the seventeenth century. Magic hadn’t started disappearing until a century later. “Still, it’s closed now.”
“Just because a door has been closed, does no’ mean it canna be reopened.”
I slid down to the ground and Robert sat beside me, both of us leaning against the tree he’d recently emerged from.
Wait, when did I start believing him?
“So, um, you think all of this is real?” I ventured, gesturing around the clearing. “The legend and all?”
Robert smiled wanly. “Ye have heard o’ me, then?”
“They say you told the world of the fairies’ secrets, so they imprisoned you in a tree.”
“That is no the whole of the tale.” Robert closed his eyes as he leaned his head back against the trunk. “I did have dealings with the Good People, but it was no them who abducted me.”
“Then who did?”
“’Twas Nicnevin, the Seelie Queen herself.”
My jaw dropped, and if I hadn’t already been on the ground I would have fallen. As it was, my arm went out from under me, and my shoulder bumped into Robert. “Are ye all right, lass?” Robert asked.
“Yes,” I lied. There was nothing all right about this. “Why did the queen take you?”
“She fancied me,” he replied. “Offered me an apple, ye ken. I said no, it angered her, she cursed me. And here we are today.”
I looked up at him. He still had his head tipped back against the tree, his eyes closed. “That sounds like the ridiculously oversimplified version.”
At that, he opened his eyes and speared me with his gaze. “Would ye be likin’ all the details, then, lass?”
I swallowed. “Um, maybe not just yet.” My gaze moved from Robert’s face to the quartz in my hand. “What makes you think I freed you?”
“Ye made contact wi’ the tree, wishin’ to rescue me. Wishes are powerful things, ye ken.” Robert leaned over and touched the quartz. “Then ye dropped your stone, and a door opened for me. I ha’ been waitin’ for ye ever since.”
“Wishes are powerful things,” I repeated. “Why do you want to leave with me? You don’t even know me.”
“I know ye freed me, and that is no small thing,” Robert replied. “I also know that as soon as Nicneven kens I’ve left me post, she will send her creatures to retrieve me.”
“Creatures?”
“Aye. And I do no’ want to be here when they arrive.”
I took a deep breath and got to my feet, Robert following suit. Once we were standing I looked into his clear blue eyes, his guileless face, and sighed. He was either telling the truth, or he was the greatest actor in the world. Or I was the world’s biggest idiot; the jury was still out on that.
“Well, let’s go.”
“Go?” he repeated hopefully.
“If you’re telling the truth—and I’m not saying that you are—I can’t just leave you here. And, if you’re not telling the truth, I’ll drop you at the nearest police station,” I added, trying to act tough in front of the armored man with the sword.
Robert inclined his head, and took both of my hands in his. “Lass, soon enough ye will ken that I only speak what’s true.” He once again brought my knuckles to his lips; this time, I let him kiss me. It was nice, having one’s hand kissed by a dark, handsome man. “Karina Siobhan Stewart, I am now your charge, and I shall follow your every command.”
“Okay. Um.” I looked him over and issued my first command. “First of all, you can’t tromp around Aberfoyle wearing chain mail. You’re going to have to take off your armor.”

author
Jennifer Allis Provost writes books about faeries, orcs and elves. Zombies too. She grew up in the wilds of Western Massachusetts and had read every book in the local library by age twelve. (It was a small library). An early love of mythology and folklore led to her epic fantasy series, The Chronicles of Parthalan and her day job as a cubicle monkey helped shape her urban fantasy, Copper Girl. When she’s not writing about things that go bump in the night (and sometimes during the day) she’s working on her MFA in Creative Nonfiction.

To learn more about Jennifer Allis Provost and her books, visit her website.You can also find her on Goodreads, Facebook, and Twitter.

Saturday, December 15, 2018

Book Review! My Brother's Bride by Rachael Anderson





My Brother's Bride (Serendipity #2) by Rachael Anderson
Genre: Adult Fiction (Historical Fiction/Romance)
Date Published: November 24, 2018
Publisher: HEA Publishing

Abigail Nash leads a lonely existence. Her mother died giving birth to her, her father’s business dealings took him away more often than not, and her ailing great-aunt, unable to provide much in the way of companionship, was a lack-luster guardian at best. So when her dear friends offered to launch her into London society, it appeared Abby’s life was taking a turn for the better, with suitors and social engagements aplenty. When she marries a proclaimed darling of the ton, it seems she will at last settle into the life of her dreams.

But appearances aren’t always what they seem, and dreams often become disappointments.

Just months into her marriage, Abby finds herself widowed, penniless, increasing, and determined to never hope again. But when her late husband’s brother, the Earl of Brigston, attempts to thaw the numbness surrounding her heart, Abby must decide if she has it in her to risk another chance at happiness, knowing the odds are not in her favor.

My Brother's Bride is the second book in the Serendipity series by Rachael Anderson. I haven't read the first book yet, and I really need to, because this is one of my favorite authors. However, this story stands alone just fine. There is a little mystery surrounding Abby and her husband, as you don't really know what brought this unlikely couple together. The story really pulls you in as you get to know its characters and all the things that brought them to where they are now. This was definitely a hard one to put down!

The ARC of My Brother's Bride by Rachael Anderson was kindly provided to me by I Am a Reader for review. The opinions are my own.


When Brigston entered the kitchen, Abby’s back was partially to him, so she didn’t immediately see him. Her brow was furrowed in concentration as she whipped something in a bowl. She paused to lift the spoon, only to frown at the white liquid dripping from it.

“Are you certain this will thicken into a cream?” she asked.

A flash of irritation crossed Monsieur Roch’s face until he spotted Morgan and seemed to think better of it. He managed a patient tone in his accented French. “It takes time, my lady.”

Morgan stifled a chuckle as Abby examined another spoonful of the liquid. “I’ve been whipping it for several minutes, but it doesn’t seem even a little thicker to me. Have I forgotten to add something?”

“No,” said the cook in clipped tones.

Morgan stepped forward and leaned in close. “If your arm is tired—”

Abby jumped, and what liquid remained on the spoon splattered across Morgan’s face. She spun around, her eyes growing wide with horror when she saw what she’d done.

He wiped a dab from his nose and tasted it. “A little more sugar, perhaps?”

“Brigston! I’m so dreadfully sorry.” She dropped the spoon into the bowl and grabbed a rag from a nearby wash basin, dabbing it across his face.

“Not that rag!” cried the cook. “It was only just used to mop the floors.”

Abby dropped it as though it had burned her, and Morgan tried not to cringe at the thought of filthy water coating his face.

Monsieur Roch retrieved a clean rag and held it out to him, appearing apologetic. He flicked another irritated glance at Abby before returning to his work.

As Morgan wiped the cream from his face, he wondered what Abby would do or say next. Offer another fumbled apology? Make her excuses and flee? Pretend the incident never happened and return to her labors? He never knew what to expect from her.

Her face scarlet, she cleared her throat and lifted her adorably determined chin. “You are most welcome, my lord.”

He raised a brow. “For what, my lady?”

“I have heard that cream does wonders for one’s complexion, and it seems the rumors are correct. Your skin appears much . . . creamier.”

Check out my reviews of  more books by Rachael Anderson!! 

author
A USA Today bestselling author, Rachael Anderson is the mother of four and is pretty good at breaking up fights, or at least sending guilty parties to their rooms. She can’t sing, doesn’t dance, and despises tragedies. But she recently figured out how yeast works and can now make homemade bread, which she is really good at eating.

To learn more about Rachael Anderson and her books, visit her blog.You can also find her on Goodreads, Instagram, BookBubFacebook, and Twitter.

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