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WhiskeyintheJar Romance

Romance book talk, reviews, recipes, and dog pictures

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Guest Reviewer at:  Reading Between the Wines book club

Currently reading

Highland Jewel: A Royal Highlander Novel
May McGoldrick
The Bewildered Bride (Advertisements for Love Book 4)
Vanessa Riley
Her Deadly Secrets
Laura Griffin
Nothing to Fear (Final Hour Book 2)
Juno Rushdan

Kyraryker’s quotes


"She thought it over, but couldn’t see any immediate loopholes other than the threat of her inner slut emerging, and she could darned well control that little bitch."— Susan Elizabeth Phillips

Top Three Reads July

What were your top reads of the month?

 

 

 

4.3 stars How to Love a Duke in Ten Days review

 

4 stars Listen to the Moon review

 

3.7 stars Bringing Down the Duke review

A Highlander Walks Into a Bar by Laura Trentham

A Highlander Walks Into a Bar - Laura Trentham

I received this book for free in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

 

Izzy and Alasdair both lost their fathers at a young age but while Izzy adored her father, Alasdair didn't have the best relationship with his. Now the uncle Alasdair adored but let anger keep him away, has run off to America with a woman he barely knows and Alasdair wants to make sure he's not being taken advantage of.

Izzy has been her mother's companion and partner in keeping their family tradition alive ever since her father died and she can't believe her mom is bringing a stranger into the mix.

Izzy and Alasdair both want to protect the ones they love but are also learning they might need to live their own lives and take a chance on secretly held dreams.

 

Lord have mercy, her mother had brought back a six-foot, two-hundred-pound-plus souvenir from Scotland.

 

First in the Highland, Georgia series, I was entertained with how the author shook things up a bit with transporting the Highlands to Georgia, USA. Izzy and her mother organize the Highland Games every year for their Scottish obsessed town and consider it their honor and Izzy's birthright as it has been passed down through her father's family. I liked how the author showed how even though Izzy considered it her birthright, she also lost a bit of herself when she gave up certain dreams to help her mom and began to ignore her own wants and needs. I think this helped to explain why she was so wary of the man her mother brought home; the pain of thinking of her dad replaced but also her spot in her mother's life.

 

Alasdair had a whole slew of background baggage to unpack, the secrets about his dad he was still keeping from his mother, trying to live the life he thought his mother wanted for him to makeup for any pain she experienced in her marriage, and the guilt of not still having a relationship with his uncle. Since he traveled to America to keep track of his uncle, this was dealt with and worked through while I felt the issues with his mom needed more flushing out, it kind of gets rushed through at the end.

 

Alasdair and Izzy had an instant physical attraction that was followed with some cute moments brought on by Izzy's clumsiness and Alasdair's teasing. Their emotional connection wasn't as deep and strong as I typically like but they were flirty cute and transitioned well enough to sexy hot. Alasdair was put in a position by his uncle to omit some truths from Izzy which I thought was mild enough to not be too emotionally damaging but added angst to the storyline. The added plot of his work going behind his back, therefore making it seem like he was going behind Izzy's back, wasn't given enough pressure to add too much of an impact. The development, hiding, finding out by Izzy, and then resolution all happened in the background enough and was wrapped up quick enough to feel more like it clogged the story with unnecessary filler than add any hefty angst.

 

I thought the town and some it's characters could have actually been fleshed out more, I'm not sure I did feel the spirit of the town but I did think I understood our main characters enough, if not their friends. A Highlander Walks Into a Bar had cute moments and a pinch of angst, it works as an afternoon read but probably won't be a particularly memorable one. The epilogue hints at another highlander venturing into this southern Scottish town and I have a feeling Izzy's free spirit friend Anna is up next for some Scottish loving.

Pre-Party Halloween Bingo - Mystery or Horror?

 

I love reading mysteries but I'm fearful I'll miss something, I have to be alone in a quiet room to enjoy. The little details the author can innocuously include that later turns out to be a huge component to the story delight me to no end. 

If you just straight asked me if I like mystery or horror though, I'd say horror in a heartbeat, I'm just not a big reader of it. I love horror movies, Slashers are my favorite but for whatever reason, the visual of movies is where I respond to them. I've tried reading slasher stories and they feel icky there or just don't grab my attention enough. I'm sure a psychoanalyst is needed here, lol. 

Anyway, I've watched more than my fair share of horror movies, have an embarrassing love for even below D ones but mysteries and all their little clues and red-herrings own my reading heart. 

Reading Update: Page 1

A Highlander Walks Into a Bar - Laura Trentham

Sunday reading, a Highlander in Georgia :)

 

A Highlander Walks Into a Bar by Laura Trentham preorder (July 30) link

 

Crunchy Cashew Thai Quinoa Salad with Ginger Peanut Dressing recipe

Great tasting, easy to make. Do suggest stirring in sauce w/ quinoa first.

 

Wonderful historical

Listen To The Moon - Rose Lerner

I buddy read this, for complete thoughts and quotes - Listen to the Moon buddy read

This took me a little off guard with how the sexual scenes started up kind of quick but the second half was full of deeply hitting emotional moments. I don't know how Lerner manages to do it but she always nails the truth behind matters and her writing in economic, race, and sex issues is seamless. 

A look at how economic and social status affects servants and the learning curve and growing pains in a new marriage. Written in Lerner's beautiful words and emotionally true characters, this story will linger with you for a while.

55%

Listen To The Moon - Rose Lerner

She was beginning to think it a heavy burden, to see only the smudges and not the silver.

More comments/quotes: Listen to the Moon Buddy Read

Reading Update: 20%

Listen To The Moon - Rose Lerner

Her merry lust turned wistful and aching. She couldn’t remember the last time anyone had taken so much care with anything to do with her.

More thoughts/quotes: Listen to the Moon Buddy Read

The Tiger Catcher by Paullina Simons

The Tiger Catcher (End of Forever) - Paullina Simons

I received this book for free in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

 

 

There'll be another time for you and me.

There'll never be another time for you and me.

 

In what is a planned trilogy, The Tiger Catcher introduces us to Julian and his love and obsession for Josephine Collins. From the moment he sees her on stage he is captivated and can't believe when he sees her again months later across the country in a book store. Simons' has this couple's story swirling questions of fate, destiny, mere coincidence, or eons of soul searching. Written in an ephemeral tone, the sentences are shorter at times and moments with and between Julian and Josephine felt like short bursts of energy; the texture of the story takes some getting used to.

 

The majority of the story is told from Julian's point of view which I think hurt my personal connection to Josephine but probably works for what the author is going for in regards to the overall series structure. After Julian reconnects with Josephine, he immediately breaks up with his girlfriend and becomes consumed with her. He has a very close friend named Ashton that from the beginning is very wary of Josephine and at first you'll probably read it as jealousy; Josephine also has a friend, Zakiyyah, that reads the same way. The story takes a turn, however, and details are revealed about Josephine and the bubble Julian has been living in gets popped.

 

Be careful who you pretend to be.

 

The beginnings chaotic happiness is contrasted with the middles abject grief and Julian ends up wandering London and addicted to Klonopin as he deals with the loss of his Josephine. With the knowledge the reader now has about Josephine, there won't be much empathy for this character and Julian's views, thoughts, and emotions start to read very skewed; the beginning feeling of soulmates will be questioned. The writing style of this part made it hard for me to really connect to the characters and therefore this extended wallowing made the story drag. If you have read Simons before though, you'll know that little, seemingly innocuous details, can later have high importance, this thinking kept me locked in.

 

Julian was no one on a river of nothing on the way to nowhere, all because a Hmong shaman said, you want to see her again?

 

The later half brings in the mystical aspects that the writing style and tone were working for and the pace started to pick up again. I love when author's take real things, like the Prime Meridian and Transit Circle, and infuse them with myth while utilizing them in fantastical ways. The story shifts from grounded in reality to time travel as the Hmong shaman, Devi, Julian fortuitously or destined found his way to, tells him that while Josephine may be lost to him in this world, he can find her in another. The story then shifts to the year 1603.

 

But they still won't be cheering for you, Lady Mary,” Julian says. “They'll be applauding for the thing you're putting on for them, for someone else. Don't you want to be loved for the young woman you actually are?”

Don't speak to me so presumptuously about love,” she says. “And no, I want to be loved for the woman I pretend to be.”

 

This part of the story I really struggled with, as even though, Mary (aka Josephine) is supposed to be more immature, it makes Julian's obsession with her even more frustrating. If it is the author's intent to make you feel this way because the payoff and understanding develops in the second or third book, I suppose that is understandable since reader's go in knowing this is a trilogy but it still makes this first book a struggle to get through. This latter thirty percent or so, was all Mary being a brat and introducing the idea that maybe we can't change the threads of our fate, predestined is predestined. Heavy questions but not relayed with very enjoyable characters to read about; my relationship with even Julian became very frayed here.

 

The story ends with Julian leaning toward a possible cataclysmic decision. The fabric of the story and characters was a little murky at times and I wish we could have gotten to know Julian's friend Ashton better (the real love of Julian's life perhaps?). Their friendship was the highlight of the story for me and the only one that rang true. What I found missing could easily be by design because of the trilogy aspect but I'm not sure I connected with or was pulled in enough to read on in the series.

 

 

 

 

 

Reading Update: 50%

The Tiger Catcher (End of Forever) - Paullina Simons

Fate, destiny, secrets, grief, and journeys. 
Halfway through this and very curious to see where Julian is going to end up. 

 

The Tiger Catcher by Paullina Simons purchase link

 

Quinoa Taco Salad recipe

Big fan of this one and sprinkled some Frank’s Red Hot on top for kick.

 

How to Love a Duke in Ten Days by Kerrigan Byrne

How to Love a Duke in Ten Days (Devil You Know) - Kerrigan Byrne

 

I received this book for free in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

 

How to Love a Duke in Ten Days is the first book in the new series Devil You Know by Kerrigan Byrne and it is a wonderful start. The Prologue starts us off with seventeen year old Alexandra as she is called into the headmaster's office of the ladies' finishing school she has been attending in France. I do want to mention that there is a pretty intense rape scene, some might want to avoid reading. Skipping the prologue to avoid it would be possible but you would miss some bonding knowledge between Alexandra and her friends. The rest of the book has mention of the rape and how it affects Alexandra's relationships and how she is, can, and could be triggered in intimate moments with our hero Piers. I thought the author handled the respect and emotions beautifully around this issue and it provided some moments of tears and smiles.

 

A confusion of sensations paralyzed her. How could she feel both panicked and protected?

 

If you've read Byrne's work before, you'll know how her stories balance light and dark moments, she mastered them in this book. The fear Alexandra feels with Piers in the beginning before she knows him was tempered exquisitely with the playfulness between the two. Alexandra and Piers get to know one another and the first half is Alexandra learning to trust Piers.

 

After the prologue, we jump ahead in time ten years and Alexandra gets a note from her friend Francesca telling her she needs her help and an invite to her betrothal ball to the Duke of Redmayne aka The Terror of Torcliffe. Francesca, along with a Cecilia, are the friends Alexandra made at the France school and they formed The Red Rogue Society. They all have red hair and sneak away at night to “further their education”, basically try things young men get to experience but are forbidden to ladies. The night of Alexandra's rape bonds them together, along with the school's gardener, as they bury a secret. I loved how Byrne wrote this group of women and how their personalities were so different but their friendship was solid. I feel like historical romance is full of men groups who are bonding together in some way and I liked the script flipping here.

 

She was a soft, silver moonbeam in a room full of glowing golden candles.

And all the more radiant for it.

 

When Alexandra and Piers meet there was a definite crackling of tension but even though these two were very guarded characters, it was their lightness together that won my heart. Byrne's writing style is very reminiscent of the bodice rippers of old, you'll get some faint purple prose elongated sex scenes and drama, which sometimes can get a bit much. I thought this was most apparent with Pier's nickname of Terror of Torcliff; except for the scars on his face, there didn't seem to be a reason for it. I also thought his background could have be fleshed out more, we're told about his mother and father, but especially his relationship with his half-brother, it wasn't as filled out as I would have liked.

 

The reason for Piers wanting to get married is so that he can produce heirs because he doesn't want his cousin inheriting, the cousin who ended up marrying Piers fiancee. This whole situation is probably what I would have cut out as it too wasn't especially filled out and the vitriol towards the ex-fiancee felt a bit much and I'm just particularly sensitive towards hate at woman at the moment. Bringing Piers in through Francesca would have worked on it's own for me.

 

Francesca wanting to marry Piers is a whole conversation, there is a lot happening in this book, but Byrne does for the vast majority keep it together. Besides the red hair and more adventurous attitudes, The Red Rogues bond together for support because Cecilia has a very cruel father and Francesca watched her whole family be murdered by men in masks. While Francesca is obviously not the star of this story, her murder mystery definitely plays a solid underlining to it. This murder mystery, along with the first half mostly taking place in Piers' castle help to give this a slight Gothic feel.

 

She wondered if the world wold ever recognize that the Terror of Torcliff had never been a terror at all. But a man. A man possessed of so much wit, skill, charm, intellect, and humor, he was forever surprising her. Often delighting her.

Enchanting her, even.

 

The second half changes gears and after a little bit of marriage of convenience, the story moves to Normandy for Alexandra and Piers' honeymoon. As Alexandra has a doctorate of archaeology, Piers takes her to a current excavation of who could be a former Viking ancestor from William the Conqueror time. Some might think this comes in a bit oddly but I loved it, this additive was fun and what I look for when I read historical romance. It also helped to tie in the other mystery, someone has been blackmailing Alexandra over what happened ten years ago. Needing money to keep paying the blackmailer was the reason for Alexandra jumping in to marry Piers (Francesca never wanted to marry him, it was a set-up to gain info on who was responsible for her family's murder). This mystery wasn't quite as intriguing as Francesca's and I thought the ending conclusion was obvious and too Scooby Doo villain drama-ish.

 

While the first half was about Alexandra trusting Piers, the second half moves to Piers learning to trust Alexandra when he learns she's not a virgin. His issues with how his mother slept around and the betrayal from his ex-fiancee cloud his judgment and he says he won't touch her until ten days, when she gets her courses. Piers doesn't even want to be around Alexandra but she sets-up that they have to be together to learn one another for at least an hour a day. This setup is brought up and then kind of abandoned but the building blocks for the couple's relationship were still there so I didn't mind.

 

Because this inexhaustible emotion gathering inside of him threatened to completely dismantle him. He knew, then and there, that he'd walk through hell for her. He'd slay dragons and face entire armies. He'd circumnavigate the globe to lay her foes at her feet. And the power of whatever suffused him would assure him victory.

 

The story does start to drag a sliver around the sixty percent mark but I'm not sure what I would cut out. As I said, this is a busy story with Alexandra getting blackmailed, Francesca's murder mystery, someone trying to murder Alexandra or Piers or both, and the whole falling love but instead of a clogged incoherent story, Byrne ties everything together soundly and creates one heck of a reading journey. The best part is that I saw these two fall in love and all the other tidbits were great bonuses. Cecilia and Piers' half brother Ramsey are teased as the next couple and I can't wait to read their story and maybe get more information on Francesca's compelling story. I highly recommend How to Love a Duke in Ten Days, don't miss out on what looks to be shaping up to one amazing series.

 

40%

How to Love a Duke in Ten Days (Devil You Know) - Kerrigan Byrne

He took the list from her trembling fingers, an affectionate fondness tilting his lips. “I almost want to check this for anything else, but I'm afraid to.”

There had been more. So much more she didn't write down. She'd wanted to ask him not to pull her hair. To request that the moon not shine. To inquire as to how violent his passions were.

She wanted to ask him, very bluntly, not to hurt her.

 

Reading Update: Page 1

How to Love a Duke in Ten Days (Devil You Know) - Kerrigan Byrne

A Red Rogue, a Redmayne, and plenty of danger...and love

 

How to Love a Duke in Ten Days by Kerrigan Byrne pre-order (Aug 27) link

 

Spicy Shrimp Tacos with Avocado Salsa and Sour Cream Sauce recipe

Used whole jalapeno and halved the sauce between sour cream and Greek yogurt. Def make the sauce, so  good!

 

 

 

More Than a Rogue by Sophie Barnes

More Than a Rogue (The Crawfords #2) - Sophie Barnes

I received this book for free in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

 

Emily Howard might be considered a spinster but she even though she's never been kissed, it doesn't mean she doesn't want to be.

Griffin Crawford has never been one to think about marriage but when he gets caught kissing Emily by the women of her family, he's prepared to do the right thing.

Except Emily wants nothing to do with a forced marriage and runs to try and escape back to her cottage out of London.

Griffin gives chase fearing for her safety and circumstances have them spending more time together, making it hard to keep certain feelings hidden.

 

As if reading her mind, he raised his chin a notch. “We’re not so dissimilar, are we? Both running from the mold our parents meant for us to fit into.”

 

More Than a Rogue is book two in the Crawford's series, the first had Griffin's Duke older brother falling in love with one of Emily's friends. I didn't read the first in the series and while I missed some prior background friendship information between Emily and her two friends and their Clearview home for children, I would still say you could start here. We're thrown right away into the story with Emily discussing with her friends how she wants to be kissed, a little hint that she's liked Griffin from afar, and then they get caught kissing. There's a tiny bit of road romance and then the majority is Emily and Griffin at a cottage liking one another and thinking the other one doesn't like them enough to do anything about it.

 

His eyes darkened as he took a step forward. The water slid away from the lower part of his chest, revealing his navel. Emily stared even as she took a step back. “I wonder,” Lord Griffin said as another stride offered a view of his hip, “how far this curiosity of yours,” his other hip appeared along with a narrow dart of black hair leading down over his pelvis, “will take you.”

 

Emily and Griffin do have their cute and steamy moments together but they got buried at times for me with the relentless “doesn't like me enough” angst that could have all been solved with a simple conversation. There was also a lot with the story plot that you'll just have to go along with, how Griffin is the only one to chase after Emily and why, Griffin deciding to pretend to be his brother so he can stay at the cottage with Emily, and all of Emily deciding Griffin doesn't love her enough when he shows and tells her in every possible way but saying the word “love”. The middle dragged out some with how Emily and Griffin went back and forth with their insecurities.

 

Reaching out, he steadied himself against a bookcase while trying to catch his breath. What the devil had Emily Howard done to him?

 

Not having read the first in the series, I don't know if the background on these characters was given more there but I would have liked to hear about Griffin's business in Vienna and how he fixes clocks and mechanical things, and definitely more information was needed on Emily's involvement with the home for children called Clearview. I never felt like I really knew these two characters, they and the story came off mostly mundane with little sparks of chemistry a handful of times.

 

This is…” her words turned into a sigh when he pulled her to him for added contact “… not very proper.”

He gave a low chuckle and let his hands slide up her arms, over her shoulders, along her neck, and into her hair. “It’s nothing compared with what I am thinking.”

 

If not completely memorable, this was a standard Regency feeling romance but what had me rounding down instead of up was the last twenty percent. The story at first feels ended and then there was an instance that felt messily tagged on and a completely unnecessary angst moment thrown in that gave the ending a very clunky feel; I wish this last percent had simply been edited out and instead went straight to the epilogue.

 

The separation between Emily and Griffin hinged on them just not talking to one another and that made a lot of the story frustrating. They had some good moments together but this was more average than memorable. If you read the first in the series, you'll probably enjoy more and want to see Emily and Griffin get their happily ever after and see what is teased ahead for their other friend Cassandra.

 

Because if there was one truth that rang loud and clear above everything else, it was that he wanted her for himself. Forever.

Reading Update: 50%

More Than a Rogue (The Crawfords #2) - Sophie Barnes

A spinster, a third born duke’s son, and a pursuit.

 

More Than a Rogue by Sophie Barnes purchase link

 

Sweet Corn Fritters recipe

Very sweet, I was surprised by how they seemed like more of a dessert. Would do half or even 1/4 of sugar next time. They were a big hit though 

 

The Wolf's Call by Anthony Ryan

The Wolf's Call: Book One of Raven's Blade - Anthony  Ryan

I received this book for free in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

 

Vaelin gave a very small laugh as a long remembered phrase came to mind. “There’s always another war.”

 

The Wolf's Call starts off the new series Raven's Blade but is also a continuation of the series Raven's Shadow. I would highly suggest reading that series first, as I did not, and was very lost for the first half of this story. For others that did read Raven's Shadow, they'll recognize the characters and find that even though the Queen of Fire now reigns, there will still be no peace for Vaelin Al Sorna, Tower Lord of the Northern Reaches.

 

Vaelin learns that his beloved, that he drugged to send away for what he considered her own safety, is now in danger. He hasn't had any contact with Sherin in years but since he sent her away, he feels responsible for her now being in danger. This is an epic fantasy series, so magic plays a big part in the story whether it be mystical orders, people with mystical powers, or mystical beings. Vaelin travels with his stowaway niece, an outlaw boy he is training, and a handful of other secondary characters.

 

Kehlbrand was no longer playing the role of a god. Now he was a god, a living god who would tolerate no worship of any other. He had become the Darkblade, and so was no longer my brother.

 

Vaelin's story is only one side of the coin, the danger he is told Sherin is going to be in, stems from a man named Kehlbrand, renamed Darkblade, now claiming to be a god. Vaelin and Kehlbrand are the overt powers at work in the story. Kehlbrand believing he is a god has decided that he needs to conquer all of the land and people, his Steele Horde army is sweeping the land and while at times physically freeing people, also enslaving their minds, through religious fervor and/or magic. While the two men are at the forefront, covertly are two women. We are first introduced to Luralyn, Kehlbrand's sister and her gift of sight, or what she calls the “True Dream”. Sharing some knowledge she gleamed from her True Dream, she ends up saving Kehlbrand, earning his trust and inadvertently setting events in motion that maybe never should have happened.

 

Hidden even more covertly is the other woman, the Jade Princess, a woman who has lived supposedly for centuries and has the gift of Song. She also has sight and she is entwined with Luralyn and Sherin. Sherin has been with the Jade Princess for awhile and believes in every action the Jade Princess says she must do in order to help save the world from the Darkblade. Vaelin traveling to save Sherin, who is with the Jade Princess, and Kehlbrand declaring Vaelin is a “Thief of Names” and he must be killed because Kehlbrand is the only one true Darkblade, has Luralyn traveling with him and their fates are all entwined.

 

I was a coward,” he said. “And a fool. I allowed myself to fall victim to the folly of prophecy and the arrogance of believing destiny actually possesses any meaning. My only defence is that in that time and place, I had no doubts. She had to leave and I had to stay.”

 

Besides being a bit lost in the first half, I thought it was a bit slow. The big war seems to have happened in the series before this one and this starts off a bit as a deflated balloon. Again, reading the previous series would help as the pace would fit in better as the middle half starts to ramp things up again. The second half I enjoyed more as I was firmly settled in the world, although still missing some background character relationships, and I enjoyed the building crescendo pace as Vaelin and Kehlbrand were being brought closer and closer together. We do get our climatic scene, but it's around the 70% mark and I once again thought the pace stalled and had to work to rev back up as this becomes a cliffhanger story; I felt this particular story plot could have ended here and elongating it to a second book feels a bit stretching.

 

I enjoyed the character relationships and the two sides of a coin feel merged together but due to not reading the first series or not explanation, going into detail enough, I was left clueless or wanting more at times; I wish I knew the Jade Princess better and the evil stone plot could have used more filling out. This was an intriguing epic fantasy world but even though there was magic running afoot, the author still managed to make our characters' humanity the center and most fascinating part of the story.

Reading Update: 50%

The Wolf's Call: Book One of Raven's Blade - Anthony  Ryan

I have a feeling I should have read the series before this one, not a true #1. Feeling lost :/

 

A living legend, a man who would be a god, and a peace that won’t last.

 

The Wolf's Call by Anthony Ryan preorder (July 23) link

 

Sausage Balls recipe

These use a ton of cheese, so obviously super good. I used 1lb of turkey sausage and ended up freezing over half because of how many it made. They made for a great breakfast with some maple syrup drizzled over.