Saturday Song

I have to admit to not ever hearing this band until this week, but I like them!  I heard this first song, Something to Believe In, on my way to work and I was diggin it.  I went and listened to some of their other music and liked that as well.  I love finding new music to listen to.  I'm also putting in another vid called Under Control.  Yes, it's a good song but I love the vid with the mannequin - gotta love a band with a sense of humor. :)  Happy Saturday!





Review: Wolfsbane by Andrea Cremer

Warning: This review contains spoilers from the first book in this series, Nightshade.

When Calla Tor wakes up in the lair of the Searchers, her sworn enemies, she’s certain her days are numbered. But then the Searchers make her an offer—one that gives her the chance to destroy her former masters and save the pack—and the man—she left behind. Is Ren worth the price of her freedom? And will Shay stand by her side no matter what? Now in control of her own destiny, Calla must decide which battles are worth fighting and how many trials true love can endure and still survive.


Calla has saved Shay from certain death and helped him escape.  She's gone with the Searchers and hopes it's for the best.  It doesn't take too long to verify that all that she thought was true was a lie and that her previous masters, the Keepers, were using her and the rest of the Guardians as pawns in their own game.

Calla's mind and heart is in a strange place and as much as she would like to have Shay fill those spaces Calla finds that she can't seem to get Ren out of her mind. She loves Shay but she also loves Ren in her way.  Is this truly a love triangle or not?  It's really pretty hard to tell and we don't have any definitive answer to that question by the end of the book.

Calla works with the Searchers to try and save her pack but things don't exactly go as planned and lives are torn apart.  Not only that but someone that Calla loves might actually be a traitor and the person they least expect to help in their mission shows up offering assistance.  What is Calla to make of it all?

This book had me asking a lot of questions by the time it was over.  I struggled with Calla and her indecisions in this book. Her wishy-washiness with Shay due to thoughts of Ren irked me at times.  I just wanted her to figure it all out in her head and be done with it.  She said she loved Shay but when someone calls her his girlfriend she vehemently denies it.  Really?  I thought you were!  *sigh*

Besides Calla's uncertainty of her relationships she was a Guardian and she needed to get the job done.  When she is sent out with a team to extract her packmates she's more than up for the job.  She's only just turned 18 but she's a strong wolf and ready to take even the largest Guardian on.

I really liked the story in this book - maybe not as much as book 1 but it really rounded things out for me and brought in more information about Calla's Guardian background, what exactly Shay is and his role in her future, how evil the Keepers actually are and that the Searchers aren't the bad guys.  It was a lot to take in but definitely worth the read.  I'll definitely be reading book 3 when it releases (supposedly next January).

Rating: 3.75 out of 5

Review posted at The Book Binge...Nightfall by Ellen Connor

Growing up with an unstable, often absent father who preached about the end of the world, Jenna never thought in her wildest nightmares that his predictions would come true. Or that he would have a plan in place to save her-one that includes the strong, stoic man who kidnaps and takes her to a remote cabin in the Pacific Northwest.

The mysterious ex-Marine named Mason owes a life-debt to Jenna's father. Skilled and steadfast, he's ready for the prophesied Change, but Jenna proves tough to convince. Until the power grid collapses and mutant dogs attack-vicious things that reek of nature gone wrong.

When five strangers appear, desperate to escape the bloodthirsty packs, Jenna defies her protector and rescues them. As technology fails and the old world falls away, Jenna changes too, forever altered by supernatural forces. To fight for their future, she and Mason must learn to trust their instinctive passion-a flame that will see them through the bitter winter, the endless nights, and the violence of a new Dark Age.

Jenna Barclay is kidnapped and taken to a cabin where she is told by Mason - a man who she thinks is crazier than a loon - that the world is gonna end.      Read more------->

Review: The Husband She Couldn't Remember by Maggie Shayne

Ben Brand had thought nothing could hurt more than losing Penny, his cherished wife. He was wrong. When Penny mysteriously showed up on his ranch, dazed but alive, Ben faced a new kind of anguish. His beloved had no memory of her past - or of him.

Ben set out to discover what had happened to his wife. Penny had to remember everything: who she was, where she'd been - the love they'd shared - because he couldn't stand to lose the only woman he'd ever loved - again.

Penny wakes up after being in a coma and has no clue who she is.  She doesn't even realize that she is Penny Brand. But she finds a scrap of paper in the lining of her clothes with an address in Texas.  She heads there and is shocked and more than a bit confused when she runs into a man who claims to be her husband - and has thought her dead for 2 years.

Ben Brand is thrilled that he has his wife back but he's also scared that he'll lose her again soon.  You see Penny had a terminal degenerative disease when she "died" and he's afraid that her health will fail quickly.  He doesn't quite understand that she may never get her memory back and is constantly showing her places that they went and telling her about things they did to try and jog her memory.  It's more than a bit frustrating for Penny.  Ben says that he loves her but does he love her or the woman she was then - and she might not be again?

On top of this is the search to find out how exactly Penny got to the clinic where she woke up from her coma, who is the doctor that seemed to want to keep her there and what do they have to do to keep Penny safe when that doctor shows up to take her back.

I have to tell you that I'm kind of a sucker for amnesiac stories.  When I read the description for this one it grabbed my attention and I immediately wanted to read it. I wasn't disappointed.

I liked this book for several different reasons.  First was the fact that the cause for the amnesia was quite different.  We really didn't discover exactly how her memories were suppressed until later in the book but it was quite creative.

The second was the whole conflict between Ben and Penny about Old Penny vs. New Penny.  I thought that this was a major issue and definitely needed to be explored - which it was.  Because Penny didn't have a clue who she was and only followed her instincts in most of her actions I had to wonder about Ben's affection for her.  Yes, he was thrilled to have his wife that he loved deeply back (as any man would) and was ecstatic that she hadn't actually died in a car crash - of course he wanted her to get her memory back... but what if she hadn't?  Could he love who she was without all of those past events to work off of?  I thought that Shayne handled this well and it was a fun and interesting story to read.

I may, one day, look into reading the rest of this series as there were some things that were left hanging (with other characters, not Ben and Penny) that intrigued me.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5

What I Read Last Week

Happy almost end of July!!

What's up in Tracyland?
I continue to have bizarre reading weeks as I continue to get up early. My daughter’s summer school ended last week but since I originally thought it ran until the 29th of July that’s how I planned my schedule at work. There’s only 1 week left – woohoo! I hate getting up early but I love, love, love getting off early from work. But then I hate having to go to bed earlier in order to get enough sleep to wake up early again. It’s a vicious cycle! lol

So this past Saturday I drove down and saw Holly for a girls day. We talked about family, and friends, and kids, and rhino and panther dicks (which you can read about in Holly's post here) and laughed and ate and just had so much fun. I ended up coming home with a large stack of books to review for The Book Binge – bigger than the original pile she had to mail me. lol

Holly also showed me the wonderful app that Goodreads now has and it’s awesome! I was using the mobile site on my phone and it was kind of a pain, I must say. For those of us who still read print books it’s got a barcode scanner and you can direct the scans to exactly which shelf you want to put the books on. The rest of the app is incredibly easy to use as well and I entered all of the books that I got from Holly all in the space of 5 minutes (I had to enter some by hand since they were ARC’s). If you use Goodreads a lot, as I do, and you have an app capable phone I suggest you get this one - it’s the perfect price: free!

Update on my oldest: She’s doing great. We had a follow up with our regular doctor. He had her give blood again to check her levels, scheduled her for an ultrasound to check things out a little more closely and then set up an appointment for us with a Gynecologist so that we can talk about the cause of the cyst and how to avoid them in the future, etc. She’s back to her normal self and doing well which is a huge relief.

It’s going to be a hard week this week. My boss, the one I’ve worked for for the past 10 years, is retiring. This is her last full work week and then her last service (she’s a priest) will be on Sunday. I has a great big sad. I know that things will be ok after she leaves but I love her so much. I’m pretty sure 75% of my love for my job is her. She’s been a wonderful boss and a great friend and I will miss her something fierce.*sniff*

I was thinking this past week that I need to take a vacation and do nothing but read. I could head to my bosses cabin near Lake Arrowhead and have peace and solitude and read my ass off. Doesn’t that sound good? Of course I think I might have to make it a 3 week vacation: 1 week to read just from my m/f TBR – 1 week to read all of my Book Binge review books and write reviews – 1 week to read nothing but m/m. Heaven. It sounds like sheer effin heaven.

Oh, and I’m over at DIK today and for the next couple of days.

Enough about me…how are you? What did you do this past week or weekend that was fun and exciting? Anything.

I started the week with my TBR Challenge Read which was My Most Excellent Year: A Novel of Love, Mary Poppins and Fenway Park by Steve Kluger. This was an wonderful book and I loved it. You can see my review here if you’re interested. 5 out of 5

Next was a novella for The Book Binge called Surrounded by Woods by Mandy Harbin. It was the story of mountain lion shifters who live to eat and mate. They stay away from society because if they are around an unattached female they’ll go feral, mate with the woman against her will (can you say rape?) and that has deadly consequences for both parties involved. Mikaela heads to Woods estate to help with some legal issues and she’s safe because they think she’s engaged…which she’s not any longer. Mikaela and one of the four sons, Josh, hit it off in a big way but what happens when they find out she’s not really engaged? A cute story in some aspects, and a bit ridiculous in others. 2.5 out of 5

Next was Wolfsbane by Andrea Cremer. This is book 2 in the Nightshade series and it starts off where book 1 left off. Calla is now with the Searchers but she doesn’t know who to trust and what’s happening back in her pack. She wants to get her pack and make sure they’re safe…along with Ren. Shay isn’t too thrilled that Calla is still thinking about Ren but he deals with it. Things don’t go as planned with the rescue mission and Calla finds out she has a traitor in her pack. Another good story – I’ll be posting my review this week for this book.

I started The Summer of You by Kate Noble but halfway through I put the book down. I was a little bored and though I normally like sweet, somewhat non-angsty romances this was a little too slow for me. I may go back and finish it some other time as I started and stopped Compromised as well – went back later and loved it. DNF (for now)

England’s Perfect Hero by Suzanne Enoch was my next read and it was so good! As much as I loved the story and the romance it was really Bit that made this book for me. He was just so emotionally scarred and I wanted to hug him for most of the book. The story was about Lucinda who has decided to teach her “lessons” to the fourth son of a duke but feels quite guilty about it since she’s really vying for marriage. The man, Geoffrey is courting Lucinda’s father, a general, as much as he’s courting Lucinda. Bit overhears about the lessons and offers to “help” Lucinda with them. Lucinda and Bit get closer and spend more time together and though they each say they’re only friends love grows between them. 4.5 out of 5

When I head to Holly’s I always get an audio book to listen to. This time I got Irresistible by Susan Mallery. I listened to about 4 of the cd’s before I got home and then read the last part of it via ebook. I liked the book but had an issue with the reader. I didn’t like her voice all that much and she made everyone but the hero and heroine have what sounded like southern accents. I could hear the where the lines were supposed to be humorous but frankly she didn’t have much inflection in her voice and it was all lost in the translation. She also made the heroes voice sound like he had no personality at all. I think she was going for stoic but didn’t quite manage that.
Also – a note to audio book readers: drink water. I really have no desire to hear the pastiness when you get dry mouth. Ewwww. lol
The story itself was about an ex-marine who moves into an apartment and becomes emotionally involved, against his will, with his neighbor and her daughter. It was a cute book. 3.5 out of 5

Last on the list was a soon to be re-issued book called The Husband She Couldn’t Remember by Maggie Shayne. The book is about a woman who has been thought dead for 2 years by her husband and his family who shows up not knowing who she is. I’m posting my review of this later this week. :)

My Book Binge reviews that posted last week:

Happy Reading!

Live Chat on 7/27 with Elin Hilderbrand

On July 27th you can chat live with Elin Hilderbrand while she talks about her next release, Silver Girl.

Here are the deets:

Saturday Song

Five Finger Death Punch first came to my attention when I heard their re-do of Bad Company.  I found I really liked their version - almost as much as the original.  This ballad is Far From Home and it's a good one.

Enjoy.  And happy Saturday! :)


And the Winner is...

The winner of the copy of the The American Heiress by Daisy Goodwin is:

Jen B.

Congratulations!  I'll email you to get your deets!

TBR Challenge Review: My Most Excellent Year: A Novel of Love, Mary Poppins, and Fenway Park by Steve Kluger

I have to admit to being a little confused this month. For some reason I kept thinking that the “suggestion” for the TBR Challenge this month was “other genre besides romance”. My boss had given me the book Snow Flower and the Secret Fan by Lisa See and I was definitely interested in reading it. I started it and frankly it just wasn’t my thing. I’m sure it’s a lovely book but I just could get into it. So I decided to throw caution to the wind, be a rebel and NOT go with the suggested theme. *gasp* I know, I really know how to break out of the mold, don’t I? lol I picked up My Most Excellent Year by Steve Kluger. Imagine my surprise when I went over to Wendy’s blog and discovered that the ACTUAL theme (not the one in my head) was “Fairy tale themes (Beauty and the Beast, Cinderella etc.)”. Yikes! After that discovery I sat down at the computer and looked at quite a few fairy tale themed lists discovering in the process that I didn’t have anything in my TBR that was fairy tale themed. I stuck with the Kluger. I’m so glad I did.

Best friends and unofficial brothers since they were six, ninth-graders T.C. and Augie have got the world figured out. But that all changes when both friends fall in love for the first time. Enter Alé. She's pretty, sassy, and on her way to Harvard. T.C. falls hard, but Alé is playing hard to get. Meanwhile, Augie realizes that he's got a crush on a boy. It's not so clear to him, but to his family and friends, it's totally obvious! Told in alternating perspectives, this is the hilarious and touching story of their most excellent year, where these three friends discover love, themselves, and how a little magic and Mary Poppins can go a long way.

TC and Augie have been best friends and brothers since they were six years old. TC’s mother had died and Augie was the person that helped TC deal with it in his own six year old way. Augie’s parents became Mom & Dad to TC and TC’s dad was Pop to both TC and Augie. When they were in 9th grade Alejandra came to live in their town of Brookline, Massachusetts.

TC, Augie and Alejandra (aka Alé) are now in the 11th grade and are assigned to write a paper on their Most Excellent Year. They all decide to write about their 9th grade year and the story takes off from there.

In 9th grade the kids were asked to start a diary/journal and write it to someone – kind of like Anne Frank addressed hers to “Dear Kitty”. TC decides to write his to his deceased mother. While some might think that a bit morbid it was one of the most touching things I’d ever read. He got to tell his mother everything that was going on in his life and ended every entry with “I Love You, TC.” I got teary on more than one occasion while reading TC journal.

TC writes about lots of different things in his journal but the main two are Alé and Hucky. He’s got it bad for Alé and is constantly trying to find ways to get her to like him. She detests him from the get go but as we read on we see how he kind of wears her down in his own wonderful way. He’s constantly trying different things that always backfire on him and my heart went out to his 14 year old self and his tale of woe. Then there was Hucky. Hucky was a six year old boy who knew – somewhat freakishly - which pitches to hit while TC was playing baseball. At first TC didn’t actually believe that Hucky was real (but someone sent by his mother to look out for him) but soon found out that there was much more to Hucky than he first thought. Hucky was a deaf child who lived at a children’s residence. Hucky was introverted and had a love like no other for Mary Poppins – believing since he was four that she would actually come to live with him. TC introduced Hucky to lots of different things and slowly brought him out of his shell with love and understanding.

Augie is a singer and dancer and writes in his journal entitling each entry “Diva of the Week” and writing to stars such as Liza Minelli, Lauren Bcall, and Angela Landsbury (to name just a few). Augie discovered in his 9th grade year that he was gay. Apparently everyone else knew but Augie hadn’t quite figured it out yet. When he did realize it it was because he started liking a boy, Andy Wexler. Andy and Augie’s relationship was heart-warming and hilarious at different times. His journal tells of his trials and tribulations in being a diva himself as well as directing his 9th grade talent show and acting and singing in the school play.

Alejandra is a diplomats daughter. She writes…at first, to Jacqueline Kennedy. That changes eventually but I don’t give you that particular spoiler as it’s just so good. Alé’s father finally settled down when she was in 9th grade and moved to Brookline so that he could work at Harvard. Her parents have incredibly high expectations for their daughter and her diplomatic future but as Alé writes in her journal – she’s a total diplomatic failure. She makes such massive faux pas that her brother Carlos has to constantly save her butt. Alé’s year was about following her dreams of dance and song and making decisions to break out of the mold that her parents have cast her in. Of course dealing with TC’s plots to get her as his girlfriend was a huge part of the journal as well. The lady doth protest too much, methinks.

All three of the journals show us what great friends that the three become over that year of their life. Those entries also show us the incredible people that the trio will become when they grown up as they learn so much about themselves in that pivotal year in their life. The love, friendship and emotion is shown to us in such a strong way that you almost feel like you’re there watching it all happen rather than reading about it after the fact. Kluger is one of my all time favorite authors. Every one of his books hits me in an emotional way but each one in a different way. I laughed, I cried. I read parts to my 9 year old daughter and had her laughing and crying with me as well. I can’t recommend this book - or any book of Kluger’s for that matter – enough.

Rating: 5 out of 5

What I Read Last Week and Holy Shit, What a Monday!

The "Holy Shit, What a Monday" part of the post:

Last night (Sunday for those of you in a different time zone) my oldest got very sick.  I thought at first that her pain was cramps and so gave her an ibuprofen and moved on.  Well not soon after that she started throwing up and continued to do that throughout most of the night.  When she woke up this morning she was crying and complaining of severe abdominal pain and I finally figured that I should take her to the doctor.  I called top get an appointment and they said that based on her symptoms I should take her to the ER.  After 8 hours in the ER (only 15 min. of that was in the waiting room), 2 doses of morphine, lab work and a CT scan they figured out that she (probably) had a ovarian cyst that had ruptured.  We just got home a little bit ago.  They sent her home with prescription strength ibuprofen and said to check up with her doc in a couple of days.  Needless to say I'm thoroughly relieved that it wasn't appendicitis, kidney stones or any of the other awful possibilities that the ER doc mentioned originally.  The worst of the pain has passed (I assume since she's not hunched over howling) and we'll just have to hope that she continues to improve.  It was a scary day - and tiring for everyone.  My oldest is really glad she's home - although she did say the hospital bed was comfortable. Kids can sleep anywhere, I swear! LOL

Other than that my week was pretty normal which I'm incredibly thankful for! :)

If it's up your alley don't forget to enter into the giveaway to win a copy of The American Heiress by Daisy Goodwin.  You can do that by clicking this link to get to the post.  Giveaway ends 7/21/11

Now to the "What I Read Last Week" part of the post...sorry if my descriptions are odd in any way or if I leave stuff out - my brain's a bit sideways right now. lol

I started off the week with a book called A Dish Served Cold by Andrew Ashling.  This was a really interesting story about a  wealthy 17 year old boy who lives in a world where indentured servitude aka slavery exists.   He's made aware of a plot that would send him into slavery for life so he finds he must act as he normally wouldn't in order to save himself.  This was a really good book in lots of little ways.  At first I had a problem with the story being told to me rather than shown to me but near the end of the book that is explained in an unexpected fashion.  The book pushed some serious buttons in me and made me more than uncomfortable in quite a few parts of the story, but the actions of the characters and the characters itself were so compelling I couldn't help but read on even when I otherwise would have put the book down.  It's really quite an interesting story with a bit of romance involved as well.  4.25 out of 5

Next up was The Reluctant Vampire by Lynsay Sands.  The story takes us back to Port Henry - the location of an Argeneau pairing a few books back.  We have Harper who's lifemate died while being changed from mortal to immortal and his guilty feelings about that; and Drina who knows that Harper is her life mate but is afraid once he finds out he'll run screaming in the streets because he's just not ready to deal with it quite yet.  Needless to say we do have tension but they deal with it as well as the person who's trying to kill the person they're guarding. Good story.  Not great on the "romance" but a good relationship none the less.  4 out of 5

Linnette, the Lioness by Lavinia Kent was next.  This was book 2 in the Real Duchesses of London series and it was as good as the first.  You can read my mini review here. 4 out of 5

Nightfall by Ellen Connor was my next read and it was great!  I really loved almost everything about it.  Yes, it was a bit bloodier than my normal romances but it totally worked for me.  It's a post-apocalyptic romance about a woman who is a non-believer in the apocalypse and the man who is sworn to save her.  I read this one for The Book Binge and I'll let you know when it posts.  4.75 out of 5

My Tracy's TBR challenge read for the week was Rough Cut: Vincent Diamond Collected by Vincent Diamond.  This is a series of short stories of cops, ex-cops, ex-cons, current convicts and others who find love and/or sex.  There are some that connect and those were great as we got to see a bit more into the men who were involved. There were 7 (I think it's 7) stories with the same characters and after they were over I just wanted more!  They were so great - Conrad and Steven *sigh*.  If you haven't read this I'd definitely recommend it. 4.25 out of 5


Next up was book 3 in the Pennyroyal Green series by Julie Anne Long called Since the Surrender.  The book had Rosalind seeking help from Chase Eversea when her sister disappears after being arrested.  Chase doesn't believe there's a problem and kind of blows her off.  But strange events happen that make him think twice about that decision.  On top of that there's the intense attraction that Rosalind and Chase have for each other that hasn't dimmed in the 5 years since they've seen  each other. A good brooding romance that I enjoyed.  3.5 out of 5


Last up was Nightshade by Andrea Cremer.  This is a YA paranormal book about a girl who is a shapeshifting wolf and the boy she comes to love.  There's just one issue - she's scheduled to marry someone else on her 18 birthday which isn't all that far off.  This was a great story about a girl who stands up for herself when she doesn't like the decisions that are being made for her.  It also is the start of a mystery involving her "clan" of shapeshifters and the people they know as their masters.  Have they been told the truth about who they are and what they should be doing with their lives, or is it all a sham?  I really liked the story and can't wait to read the second book (which I have sitting here waiting for me - yay!).  4.5 out of 5

My Book Binge review that posted this past week:
One Magic Moment by Lynn Kurland
Flying Blind by Deborah Cooke

Happy Reading!

Saturday Song

My music listening this past week was quite limited and consisted of 95% Radio Disney and 5% Octane - what a mix! lol  But as I was listening to RD I heard this song (many times as they tend to play the same ones over and over and over) but I found I really like it!  This is One Step Closer by Shane Harper. Enjoy!


Mini Review: The Real Duchesses of London: Linnette, the Lioness by Lavinia Kent

Regency England just got real(ity)

Episode 2: The One with the Fake Baby

Rumors abound – everyone has heard that Linnette, the Dowager Duchess of Doveshire is pregnant. Beautiful, young, with more freedom than any respectable woman should want, Linnette is no stranger to a little gossip. But her friends can’t help her brave the fallout, because this time Linnette has done something naughty…

The second installment of Lavinia Kent’s Real Duchesses of London is Linnette’s story. In book 1 her friendship with Kathryn, the Duchess of Harrington was put on the line because of a cartoon that was drawn with Linnette pregnant…standing next to Kathryn’s husband as if he was the father. It’s been a week and yet another cartoon has been released but this one shows Linnette with another man – who just happens to be the new Duke of Doveshire.

Linnette and James were at one time lovers and great friends. James went off one day to the Americas and Linnette hadn’t seen him in 8 years. When he returns their passions unite but Linnette knows that they cannot be together forever. After all, what would the scandal sheets say?

But after many harsh words – some very loving ones and a lot of talking the pair may have figured it all out.

This was a great addition to the series. I like how short and quick these stories are but Kent doesn’t skimp on the story, the sex or the emotion just because of the abbreviated length.

Though I couldn’t get too into the characters when reading the novella I found that I was no less interested in what would happen next. I love how the story is fleshed out and yes, I do know who’s drawing the cartoons…at least I think I do! lol Kent may throw a huge wrench into it and I may be wrong but I’m pretty sure my suspicions from the first story will be confirmed in the end.

Next up is Annabelle’s story and I can’t wait to see what happens.

Rating: 4 out of 5

The American Heiress by Daisy Goodwin Book Giveaway

Traveling abroad with her mother at the turn of the twentieth century to seek a titled husband, beautiful, vivacious Cora Cash, whose family mansion in Newport dwarfs the Vanderbilts’, suddenly finds herself Duchess of Wareham, married to Ivo, the most eligible bachelor in England. Nothing is quite as it seems, however: Ivo is withdrawn and secretive, and the English social scene is full of traps and betrayals. Money, Cora soon learns, cannot buy everything, as she must decide what is truly worth the price in her life and her marriage.

THE AMERICAN HEIRESS
Daisy Goodwin


CHAPTER 1

The Hummingbird Man
Newport, Rhode Island, August 1893

T HE VISITING HOUR WAS ALMOST OVER, SO the hummingbird man encountered only the occasional carriage as he pushed his cart along the narrow strip of road between the mansions of Newport and the Atlantic Ocean. The ladies of Newport had left their cards early that afternoon, some to prepare for the last and most important ball of the season, others so they could at least appear to do so. The usual clatter and bustle of Bellevue Avenue had faded away as the Four Hundred rested in anticipation of the evening ahead, leaving behind only the steady beat of the waves breaking on the rocks below. The light was beginning to go, but the heat of the day still shimmered from the white limestone façades of the great houses that clustered along the cliffs like a collection of wedding cakes, each one vying with its neighbour to be the most gorgeous confection. But the hummingbird man, who wore a dusty tailcoat and a battered grey bowler in some shabby approximation of evening dress, did not stop to admire the verandah at the Breakers, or the turrets of Beaulieu, or the Rhinelander fountains that could be glimpsed through the yew hedges and gilded gates. He continued along the road, whistling and clicking to his charges in their black shrouded cages, so that they should hear a familiar noise on their last journey. His destination was the French chateau just before the point, the largest and most elaborate creation on a street of superlatives, Sans Souci, the summer cottage of the Cash family. The Union flag was flying from one tower, the Cash family emblem from the other.

He stopped at the gatehouse and the porter pointed him to the stable entrance half a mile away. As he walked to the other side of the grounds, orange lights were beginning to puncture the twilight; footmen were walking through the house and the grounds lighting Chinese lanterns in amber silk shades. Just as he turned past the terrace, he was dazzled by a low shaft of light from the dying sun refracted by the long windows of the ballroom.

In the Hall of Mirrors, which visitors who had been to Versailles pronounced even more spectacular than the original, Mrs Cash, who had sent out eight hundred invitations for the ball that night, was looking at herself reflected into infinity. She tapped her foot, waiting impatiently for the sun to disappear so that she could see the full effect of her costume. Mr Rhinehart stood by, sweat dripping from his brow, perhaps more sweat than the heat warranted.

‘So I just press this rubber valve and the whole thing will illuminate?’

‘Yes indeed, Mrs Cash, you just grasp the bulb firmly and all the lights will sparkle with a truly celestial effect. If I could just remind you that the moment must be short-lived. The batteries are cumbersome and I have only put as many on the gown as is compatible with fluid movement.’

‘How long have I got, Mr Rhinehart?’

‘Very hard to say, but probably no more than five minutes. Any longer and I cannot guarantee your safety.’

But Mrs Cash was not listening. Limits were of no interest to her. The pink evening glow was fading into darkness. It was time. She gripped the rubber bulb with her left hand and heard a slight crackle as light tripped through the one hundred and twenty light bulbs on her dress and the fifty in her diadem. It was as if a firework had been set off in the mirrored ballroom.

As she turned round slowly she was reminded of the yachts in Newport harbour illuminated for the recent visit of the German Emperor. The back view was quite as splendid as the front; the train that fell from her shoulders looked like a swathe of the night sky. She gave a glittering nod of satisfaction and released the bulb.

The room went dark until a footman came forward to light the chandeliers.

‘It is exactly the effect I had hoped for. You may send in your account.’

The electrician wiped his brow with a handkerchief that was less than clean, jerked his head in an approximation of a bow and turned to leave.

‘Mr Rhinehart!’ The man froze on the glossy parquet. ‘I trust you have been as discreet as I instructed.’ It was not a question.

‘Oh yes, Mrs Cash. I did it all myself, that’s why I couldn’t deliver it till today. Worked on it every evening in the workshop when all the apprentices had gone home.’

‘Good.’ A dismissal. Mrs Cash turned and walked to the other end of the Hall of Mirrors where two footmen waited to open the door. Mr Rhinehart walked down the marble staircase, his hand leaving a damp smear on the cold balustrade.

*****

In the Blue Room, Cora Cash was trying to concentrate on her book. Cora found most novels hard to sympathise with – all those plain governesses – but this one had much to recommend it. The heroine was ‘handsome, clever and rich’, rather like Cora herself. Cora knew she was handsome – wasn’t she always referred to in the papers as ‘the divine Miss Cash’? She was clever – she could speak three languages and could handle calculus. And as to rich, well, she was undoubtedly that. Emma Woodhouse was not rich in the way that she, Cora Cash, was rich. Emma Woodhouse did not lie on a lit à la polonaise once owned by Madame du Barry in a room which was, but for the lingering smell of paint, an exact replica of Marie Antoinette’s bedchamber at le petit Trianon. Emma Woodhouse went to dances at the Assembly Rooms, not fancy dress spectaculars in specially built ballrooms. But Emma Woodhouse was motherless which meant, thought Cora, that she was handsome, clever, rich and free. That could not be said of Cora, who at that moment was holding the book straight out in front of her because there was a steel rod strapped to her spine. Cora’s arms ached and she longed to lie down on Madame du Barry’s bed but her mother believed that spending two hours a day strapped to the spine improver would give Cora the posture and carriage of a princess, albeit an American one, and for now at least Cora had no choice but to read her book in extreme discomfort.

At this moment her mother, Cora knew, would be checking the placement for the dinner she was holding before the ball, tweaking it so that her forty odd guests knew exactly how brightly they sparkled in Mrs Cash’s social firmament. To be invited to Mrs Cash’s fancy dress ball was an honour, to be invited to the dinner beforehand a privilege, but to be seated within touching distance of Mrs Cash herself was a true mark of distinction, and was not to be bestowed lightly. Mrs Cash liked to sit opposite her husband at dinner ever since she had discovered that the Prince and Princess of Wales always faced each other across the width not the length of the table. Cora knew that she would be placed at one end sandwiched between two suitable bachelors with whom she would be expected to flirt just enough to confirm her reputation as the belle of the season but not so much that she compromised her mother’s stratagems for her future. Mrs Cash was throwing this ball to display Cora like a costly gem to be admired but not touched.

This diamond was destined for a coronet, at least.

Directly after the ball the Cashes were leaving for Europe on their yacht the SS Aspen. Mrs Cash had done nothing so vulgar as to suggest that they were going there to find Cora a title; she did not, like some other ladies in Newport, subscribe to Titled Americans, a quarterly periodical which gave details of blue-blooded but impecunious young men from Europe who were looking for a rich American bride, but Cora knew that her mother’s ambitions were limitless.
Cora put the novel down and shifted uncomfortably in the spine harness. Surely it was time for Bertha to come and unbuckle her. The strap across her forehead was digging in; she would look ridiculous at the ball tonight with a great red welt on her brow. She wouldn’t mind in the least discomfiting her mother but she had her own reasons for wanting to look her best. Tonight was her last chance with Teddy before she had to leave for Europe. Yesterday at the picnic they had come so close, she was sure that Teddy had been about to kiss her, but her mother had found them before anything could happen. Cora smiled a little at the thought of her mother sweating as she pedalled to catch up with them. Mrs Cash had dismissed bicycles as hoydenish, until she realized that her daughter could use them to evade her, and then she had learnt to ride one in an afternoon. She might be the richest girl in America but surely she was also the most persecuted. Tonight was her coming-out party and here she was strapped into this instrument of torture. It was time she was released. In one stiff movement she rose and rang the bell.

***

The Blue Room bell rang. One of the maids came out of the kitchen and shouted, ‘That’s the second time Miss Cora’s bell’s gone, you had better get up there, Bertha.’ 

Bertha jumped. ‘I have to go now. I’ll come and find you later, once the ball gets going. Don’t go until I see you.’ She tried to conceal her relief at the interruption with the vehemence of her tone.

The bell jangled again. Bertha walked as fast as she dared up the servants’ staircase. Running was forbidden. One of the housemaids had been dismissed for going down the marble staircase two at a time. Disrespectful, Mr Simmons the butler had called it.

She knocked on the Blue Room door and went in. Cora was almost crying with frustration. ‘Where have you been, Bertha? I must have rung three times. Get me out of this infernal thing.’

She was tugging at the leather bands encircling her body. The spine straightener, which had been made to Mrs Cash’s special design, had all the buckles at the back and so was impossible to remove without help.

Bertha tried to appease her. ‘I’m sorry, Miss Cora, the man with the hummingbirds had news from home, I guess I didn’t hear the bell.’

Cora snorted. ‘It’s hardly an excuse that you were listening to gossip while I was trussed up here like a chicken.’

Bertha said nothing but fumbled at the buckles. She could feel her mistress twitching with impatience. As soon as she was free of the harness, Cora shook herself like a dog trying to get dry, then she spun round and grabbed Bertha by the shoulders. Bertha braced herself for a telling off, but to her surprise Cora smiled.

‘I need you to tell me how to kiss a man. I know you know how, I saw you with the Vandemeyers’ groom after their ball.’

Cora’s eyes were glittering with urgency. Bertha drew back from her mistress.

‘I don’t think kissing is something you can tell,’ she said slowly, playing for time. Was Miss Cora going to let Mrs Cash know about her and Amos?

‘Show me then. I have to get this right,’ Cora said fiercely and leant towards Bertha. As she did so, a low shaft of light from the setting sun hit her conker-coloured hair, setting it ablaze.

Bertha tried not to shrink away. ‘You really want me to kiss you the way I would a man?’ Surely Miss Cora was not serious.

‘Yes, yes, yes.’ Cora tossed her head. The red mark from the harness was still visible on her forehead.

‘But Miss Cora, it ain’t natural two women kissing. If anyone were to see us I’d lose my place.’ 

‘Oh, don’t be so squeamish, Bertha. What if I were to give you fifty dollars?’ Cora smiled enticingly as if offering a child a sweet.

Bertha considered this. Fifty dollars was two months’ salary. But kissing another woman was still not right.

‘I don’t think you should be asking me this, Miss Cora, it just ain’t fitting.’ Bertha tried to sound as much like the Madam as she could; she knew that Mrs Cash was the only person in the world that Cora was frightened of. But Cora was not to be put off.

‘Do you imagine that I actually want to kiss you? But I must practise. There is someone I need to kiss tonight and I have to do it right.’ Cora shook with determination.

‘Well . . .’ Still Bertha hesitated.

‘Seventy-five dollars.’ Cora was wheedling now; Bertha knew she wouldn’t be able to hold out for very long when her mistress wanted something that badly. Cora would just persist until she got her own way. Only Mrs Cash could say no to her daughter. Bertha decided to make the best of the situation.

‘All right, Miss Cora, I will show you how to kiss a man, but I would like the seventy-five dollars now if you don’t mind.’ Bertha knew quite well that Mrs Cash did not give Cora an allowance, so she had every reason to ask to see the money. Miss Cora was a great one for making promises she couldn’t keep. But to Bertha’s surprise, Cora produced a purse from under her pillow and counted out the dollars.

‘Can you set aside your scruples now?’ she said, holding out the bills.
The maid hesitated for a second and then took the money and tucked it away in her bodice. Seventy-five dollars should stop the hummingbird man looking at her like that. Taking a deep breath, she took Cora’s flushed cheeks gingerly in her hands and bent her head towards her mistress. She pressed her lips against hers with a modest pressure and drew back as quickly as she could. Cora broke away impatiently. ‘No, I want you to do it properly. I saw you with that man. You looked as if, well,’ she paused, trying to find the right phrase, ‘as if you were eating each other.’ This time she put her hands on the maid’s shoulders and pulled Bertha’s face towards hers and pushed her lips to Bertha’s, pressing as hard as she could.

Reluctantly Bertha pushed her mistress’s lips open with her tongue and ran it lightly around the other woman’s mouth. She felt her go stiff for a moment with shock and then Cora began to kiss her back, pushing her tongue between her teeth. Bertha was the first to pull away. It was not unpleasant kissing Cora, it was certainly the most sweet-tasting kiss she had ever had. Better than Amos, who stank of chewing tobacco.

‘You taste quite . . . piquant,’ said Cora, wiping her mouth with a lace handkerchief. ‘Is that all you have to do? You haven’t left anything out? I have to do this correctly.’ She looked earnestly at Bertha.

Not for the first time, Bertha wondered how anyone could be as educated as Cora and yet so ignorant. It was all Mrs Cash’s fault of course. She had raised Cora like a beautiful doll. She wouldn’t mind having Miss Cora’s money or her face, but she sure as hell wouldn’t want to have Miss Cora’s mother.

‘If it’s just kissing you’re having in mind, Miss Cora, then I reckon that’s all you will require,’ Bertha said firmly.

‘Aren’t you going to ask me who it is?’ Cora said.

‘Begging your pardon, Miss Cora, but I don’t want to know. If the Madam was to find out what you’re about . . .’

‘She won’t, or rather, she will but by the time she does it will be too late. Everything will be different after tonight.’ She looked at the maid sideways as if challenging Bertha to ask her more. But Bertha was not to be drawn. So long as she didn’t ask questions, she couldn’t be made to answer them. She made her face go slack.

Cora, however, had lost interest in her. She was looking at herself in the long gilt cheval glass. Once they had kissed, she was sure that everything else would fall into place. They would announce their engagement and she would be a married woman by Christmas.

‘You’d better get my costume ready, Bertha. Mother will be here in a minute, checking that I have followed her instructions à la lettre. I can’t believe I have to wear something so perfectly hideous. Still, Martha Van Der Leyden told me that her mother is making her dress like a Puritan maid so I suppose it could be worse.’

Cora’s dress had been copied from a Velázquez painting of a Spanish infanta that Mrs Cash had bought because she had heard Mrs Astor admire it.

As Bertha took the elaborate hooped skirt from the closet, she wondered if the Madam had chosen her daughter’s costume as much for the way it restricted the wearer’s movement as for any artistic considerations. No gentleman would be able to get within three feet of Miss Cora. The kissing lesson would have been in vain.

She helped Cora out of her tea gown and into the farthingale. Cora had to step into it and Bertha had to fasten the harness like shutting a gate. The silk brocade of the skirt and bodice had been specially woven in Lyons; the fabric was heavy and dense. Cora swayed slightly as the weight of it settled on the frame. It would only take the slightest pressure to make her lose her balance entirely.

The dress was three feet wide so Cora would have to go through all doorways sideways. Waltzing in such a dress would be impossible.

Bertha knelt and helped Cora into the brocade shoes with Louis heels and upturned toes. Cora began to wobble.

‘I can’t wear these, Bertha, I will fall over. Get the bronze slippers instead.’

‘If you’re sure, Miss Cora . . .’ Bertha said cautiously.

‘My mother is expecting eight hundred people tonight,’ Cora said. ‘I doubt she will have time to inspect my feet. Get the slippers.’ But Cora’s words were braver than she felt; both girls knew that the Madam never missed anything.

Mrs Cash was making one last survey of her costume. Her neck and ears were still bare, not through austerity on her part but because she knew that any minute her husband would come in with a ‘little something’ which would have to be put on and admired. Winthrop had been spending a lot of time in the city lately, which meant that a ‘little something’ was due. Some of her contempor - aries had used their husband’s infidelities as a way of purchasing their freedom, but Mrs Cash, having spent the last five years shaking Cash’s Finest Flour from her skirts, had no desire to tarnish her hard-won reputation as the most elegant hostess in Newport and Fifth Avenue by something as shabby as divorce. So long as Winthrop was discreet, she was prepared to pretend that she knew nothing of his passion for the opera.

There had been a time once, though, when she had not been so sanguine. In the early days of their marriage she could not bear to let him out of her sight, for fear that he would bestow that same confiding smile on someone else. In those days she would have thought jewels no substitute for Winthrop’s unclouded gaze. But now she had her daughter, her houses and she was the Mrs Cash. She hoped that Winthrop would bring her diamonds this time. They would go well with her costume.

There was a tap at the door and Winthrop Rutherford II came in wearing the satin breeches, brocade waistcoat and powdered wig of Louis XV; the father might have started life as a stable boy but the son was a convincing Bourbon king. Mrs Cash thought with satisfaction that he looked quite distinguished in his costume, not many men could carry off silk stockings; they would be a handsome couple.

Her husband cleared his throat a little nervously. ‘You look quite magnificent tonight, my dear, no one would think this was the last ball of the season. May I be permitted to add a little something to perfection?’

Mrs Cash moved her head forward as if readying herself for the axe. Winthrop pulled the diamond collar from his pocket and fastened it round her neck.

‘You anticipate me, as always. It is indeed a necklace,’ he said.

‘Thank you, Winthrop. Always such taste. I shall wear the earrings you gave me last summer; I think they will make a perfect match.’ She reached without a moment’s hesitation for one of the morocco leather boxes on the dressing table, leaving Winthrop to wonder, not for the first time, if his wife could read his mind.

The opening bars of the Radetsky March floated up from the terrace. Mrs Cash stood and took her husband’s proffered arm. ‘You know, Winthrop, I would like this evening to be remembered.’ Cash knew better than to ask what she wanted the evening to be remembered for. She was only interested in one thing: perfection.

To enter to win a copy of The American Heiress please leave a comment on this post along with your email address by 7:00pm (pacific) on 7/21/11. (US and Canada residents only, please)

Blogger/Firefox/IE...they all hate me!

Is it just me?

Whenever I go to comment on a blog that has embedded commenting I see red.  Angry, you say?  Well, not at first...but after multiple clicks? Yeah, but I'd say more like frustrated.

You see, I use Firefox at work and every time I try to comment on a blog that has embedded comments my comment is deleted and I'm not logged in.  I even try to use my livejournal and that doesn't work either.  I then have to go to Internet Explorer and even then I can't use my google login - only my livejournal one.  Am I the only one that has this issue with Firefox and IE?  I guess I don't honestly believe that it's a blogger issue (at least I don't think it is, though it may be) but it's frustrating as all hell.


I don't have this problem at all when I'm at home and comment while using Google Chrome.

So, do any of the rest of you ever have this issue and if you fixed it, how did you do it? Help!

What I Read Last Week

Here we are again! It doesn’t seem possible that a whole week has gone by since I wrote last Monday’s post. Time flies when you’re old! lol

I was totally correct last week – getting up early is killing me! lol It’s definitely not easy getting up early in the morning and it’s really hard to go to bed so much earlier than I normally do just so I can get a decent amount of sleep. Luckily this is only for 3 more weeks. What doesn’t kill us makes us stronger, right? Please say right. lol

This past weekend the fam and I headed down to San Diego to see my sister who was down there for work. We ended up going to the Birch Aquarium in La Jolla and then having a picnic in Balboa Park in SD. The aquarium was small but there was a lot of interesting things for the kids to do and we had a lot of fun. The park was beautiful and the it wore the kids out so that was nice. lol

Here are a few pictures:
The view from the aquarium
My sister
My fam, my niece, her boyfriend and his kids
Checking out the tide pools
My reading wasn’t squashed as much as I thought it would be this past week. I did read shorter books in between the longer ones which was nice.

First up was Brightest Kind of Darkness by PT Michelle. This was a YA novel that I really loved. You can read my review here. 4.5 out of 5

Next up was book 2 in the Lessons in Love trilogy by Suzanne Enoch called London’s Perfect Scoundrel. This was Evelyn’s book and it was great! Evelyn decides that she’s going to volunteer some time at an orphanage that she passes all the time. But she finds that she must past muster with the Board of Trustees before she can do anything and that’s where she runs into the Marquis St. Aubyn. St. Aubyn is a rake and a scoundrel and no one that a proper lady should be associated with. St. Aubyn decides he wants to bed Evelyn but he gets much more than he bargained for when he decides to pursue her. This was a great book. Once I picked it up I had a very hard time putting it down. I loved that we got such a great deal of page time with St. Aubyn as I just loved his character. I did have a little bit of an issue with Evelyn’s family. She was seen as a total dimwit by her family but she was really pretty smart. I just couldn’t understand how they could view here that way – just because she went along with what they said all the time. That was just a little niggle and didn’t effect my overall enjoyment of the book. I can’t wait to read the next book. 5 out of 5

Next up was Muffled Drum by Erastes. This was the story of two men who fall in love and are almost torn apart by a case of amnesia. Good stuff. 4 out of 5 You can read my review here.

Next was Sympathy by Jordan Castillo Price. While delivering plants to a house in his neighborhood that always scared the bejeezers out of him as a kid Tony meets David, the new owner of the house. The story was of David and Tony getting to know each other and the strange connection David had with Tony. Good story. 3.5 out of 5

Addicted to You by Bethany Kane was my next read . This is an erotic romance but there was a great story involved here that I really liked. Katie heads to southern Illinois to try and help her friend Rill. Rill’s wife had died two years before and Rill had ended up drinking himself silly in a small town. Katie and Rill end up in bed together but during that time the two find out quite a bit about themselves. I liked the characters in this one a lot and loved seeing each of them grown during the story. 4 out of 5

Next was a short called Jennifer’s Lion by Lizzie Lynn Lee. The story was that a woman is drugged dumped in the Savannah by her so-called fiancé so that he can collect the insurance money. But Jennifer is found by a shape-shifting lion clan who takes her in. Of course the alpha wants to claim her and they’re having sex not an hour after she wakes up from certain death. I didn’t care for the story much at all – the instant sex was off-putting and there was no real depth to it at all. Then I got to the epilogue where the man goes down on the woman in his lion form - Oh heeeeeelll no. I didn’t bother reading further even though there were only 2 pages or so left. Not my cuppa, thank you. 1 out of 5

Slings & Arrows by Josh Lanyon was another short I read. This was about a college student who has a crush on one of his teacher’s assistants, Walter. He likes Walter but the pair is awkward around each other. It was very sweet and I really loved how the pair came together despite their huge communication issues. 4 out of 5

Last for the week was A Lady’s Lesson in Scandal by Meredith Duran. This was an unusual historical romance. Nell grew up in one of the worst parts of London. She finds out from her mother, right before her mother dies, that she is the daughter of an Earl. She thinks she’s a bastard daughter and goes to kill the man when she asks for money and is ignored. She finds out that not only is her father dead but she’s not the bastard daughter – she is the missing daughter who was kidnapped when she was 6 years old. The current earl wants to turn her into a lady so that she can be recognized as who she truly is as well as get the money that is due her and that they will split. Simon marries Nell but originally plans to annul the marriage if she isn’t recognized as the long lost daughter. The pair end up falling in love, but there are many people who get in their way of happiness, including themselves. A really good book that has Duran’s typical wonderful writing. The book almost had a kind of Pygmalion feel to it but it was so much more. 4.25 out of 5

My Book Binge reviews that posted last week:

Happy Reading!

Saturday Song

I hadn't even heard this song in a long damn while but that didn't stop it from taking root in my brain this week and not letting go.  I like Bills, Bills, Bills sung by The Warblers on Glee so I guess it wasn't all bad.  My kids are sick of me singing it though, I'm pretty sure. lol  Here it is to put an earworm in you too!  You can thank me later.

Review: Muffled Drum by Erastes

Bohemia, 1866

They met in a port-side tavern, their lust-filled moments stolen from days of marching and madness. After eighteen months, Captain Rudolph von Ratzlaff and First Lieutenant Mathias Hofmann have decided to run away from everything they hold dear. Resigning their commissions is social suicide, but there's no other choice. Someone will eventually see Rudolph's partiality toward Mathias. 

Now their plans have gone horribly awry... When Mathias goes to Rudolph's tent after their last battle, his lover looks at him without a hint of recognition. Mathias can hardly believe the man he knew is gone. He wants to fill in so many of Rudolph's missing memories, but the doctor says a shock could result in permanent damage. The pain of seeing Rudolph on a daily basis, when Rudolph doesn't remember their love, is excruciating. Now Mathias must decide whether he wants to fight for the man he loves or forget him completely...

Imagine you decided to make one of the biggest decision of your life knowing that you had someone you love beside you (in your heart) and they too would be making the biggest decision of their life. You’d be nervous, sure, but you’d also be excited to start the next chapter to see what would happen. That’s what happened with Mathias Hoffman. He and his lover, Rudolph, decide to resign their commissions from the army (during a campaign, no less, so they will be completely ostracized) so that they can go live somewhere in obscurity and just be together. Mathias heads to the head officer after a battle and resigns. He then heads to Rudolph’s tent wondering if he too has already resigned. But when he reaches Rudolph’s tent there’s a celebration going on. When Mathias approaches Rudolph he discovers that not only did Rudolph not resign, Rudolph has no freakin clue who Mathias is. You see during the battle Rudolph jumped a cart on his horse – the horses hoof caught the side of the cart and Rudolph got a bump on the head. He remembers being in the army but not anything of his life from the last two years. The years where Mathias and Rudolph met and fell in love.

Mathias discovers that Rudolph is being sent home to Berlin and decides that he’s not giving up on Rudolph – he will travel with him in the hopes that his love will get his memory back. But as they travel Mathias gets more concerned that Rudolph will never recover. Mathias keeps to himself the fact that they were lovers when he shares the details of their friendship. As the two men travel toward Berlin they get closer and at one point share a kiss. But Rudolph pushes Mathias away because he can’t cheat on his boyfriend Ernst. What??? Now Mathias has to deal with his feelings toward Rudolph, his decisions about what he will do once they reach Berlin and promises he made. Needless to say this was nothing like he thought his time out of the army would go.

I have to tell you that my heart was in my throat for most of this book. The feeling and the emotion that was oozing off the pages was heart wrenching and my chest literally ached for Mathias – and at some points, Rudolph. When Mathias goes to that tent and finds out that Rudolph doesn’t know him it almost made me cry. Here this man has changed his entire life for something that no longer exists and my heart went out to him. But I so admired Mathias for sticking with Rudolph – yes, a lot of it was self-serving with Mathias hoping that he would be remembered but the love I felt from him toward Rudolph was something that couldn’t be denied.

I had a harder time getting to like Rudolph after his association with Ernst was discovered. Now, that wasn’t what we all thought it was in the end but it still made me stop and pause, wondering who exactly Rudolph was.

This is my first read by Erastes but it certainly won’t be my last. I loved her writing styles, her characterizations and the pure emotion (whether love or hate) that was put into the book. Muffled Drum is a very good historical that I will remember for quite a while.

Rating: 4 out of 5

Review: Brightest Kind of Darkness by P.T. Michelle

Nara Collins is an average sixteen-year-old, with one exception: every night she dreams the events of the following day. Due to an incident in her past, Nara avoids using her special gift to change fate…until she dreams a future she can’t ignore.

After Nara prevents a bombing at Blue Ridge High, her ability to see the future starts to fade, while people at school are suddenly being injured at an unusually high rate.

Grappling with her diminishing powers and the need to prevent another disaster, Nara meets Ethan Harris, a mysterious loner who seems to understand her better than anyone. Ethan and Nara forge an irresistible connection, but as their relationship heats up, so do her questions about his dark past.

Nara wants surprises in her life. She wants the unknown – or so she thinks. When Nara – who dreams of her immediate future every night – loses the ability to see what is to happen the next day of her life she decides that maybe seeing the future isn't as bad as she thought. She now doesn't know the answers of the tests she's about to take – she doesn't know where the ball will be kicked when she plays goalie in soccer – she just doesn't know and it throws her for a gigantic loop.

The new guy at school, Ethan, is a nice distraction though. Nara makes an effort to befriend the boy but when he reveals that he now has Nara's dreams she's a bit freaked out. How did he get them and how will she get them back? Ethan and Nara, however, discover that the dream issue is the least of their worries. You see, when Nara called in the bomb threat to the police she changed fate. Ethan and Nara discover that the people that would have been harmed in the bombing are now getting hurt in different ways. Against Ethan's wishes Nara is trying to help those and change fate yet again but there's someone or something out there that doesn't like it and is trying to stop Nara from making a difference.

PT Michelle has written a wonderful book that I definitely recommend reading.

The whole situation with Ethan and Nara was so intriguing and I wanted more by the end of the book – warning: there is a cliff-hanger so we don't have everything concluded at the end of the book. The dreaming aspect of the story, as well as the “powers” that Ethan had (which you'll just have to read about for yourself) really drew me into the story and didn't let go.

I loved that this book had romance in it as well. It was very tame in the actual sex department, as I think YA's should be (call me a prude, go ahead. Lol) but the connection that was formed between Nara and Ethan was so strong I felt it deep down as I was reading. Michelle really knows how to put emotion into her characters (as she's proven in past adult books when writing as Patrice Michelle) and I just love that she didn't skimp on that in this book even though it's YA.

Even with the romance in the book I feel I have to tell you that this is definitely a darker book. I can't read books that are too dark but this one really walks the edge of light and dark. I think that's one of the reasons that I liked it so well – it would take me into the darkness but not so much that it squicked me out. There's blood, there's mystery and thar be monsters but in the end...goodness reigns. Just good stuff.

This is the first book in the Brightest Kind of Darkness series and I can tell you that I will definitely be reading future books.

Rating 4.5 out of 5