He allowed his mind to return to Oxford one more time, pictured her with her head bent over a book, her hair curling against her soft nape and her clever mind whirring. A bittersweet pull made his chest contract. He supposed that was how it felt to miss someone.
Victorian England, a Duke, a Suffragette, and a debut author.
Can’t wait to start!
Seems I’ve really been feeling the pasta lately. This one makes a lot but it’s a Good a lot. Buy the extra lemon for spritzing and then let the yummy take you away, another fav recipe I make a lot.
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.
Hana works at her family's Hungarian tea house and loves her job. When the Magyar Women, a group of older Hungarian women, rent out the space for an afternoon tea, she expects it to be gossip, “when you going to meet a nice boy” talk, and friendship sharing, she does not expect murder.
With the reputation of their tea house on the line, Hana and her mother and grandmother work with Detective Wolf to help solve who wanted Ava Novak dead. Hungarian myths, legends, magic, food, and new and old mysteries swirl around as Hana wonders who could do such a thing and if maybe she should let a Wolf into her heart.
“They’ve got poor Mrs. Kalas out there, looking all deflated and nervous. Can you really picture one of these old ladies committing murder?”
“Of course I can. They’re a scary batch of Old Country women, full of superstition and paprika-scented resentment.”
The first in a new series, Death in a Budapest Butterfly, introduces us to Hana. She's of Hungarian descent and even though she is American, the Hungarian culture plays a big part in her life. She helps her mother and grandmother run Maggie's Tea House, a business that has been in her family for generations. When Hana sees that one of the members of the Magyar Women is drinking from her very rare Butterfly tea cup that was only supposed to be a for looks center piece, she makes a move to rescue it. When she sees a Hungarian message about a witch written inside the cup, she immediately searches for Ava, the woman drinking from the cup, and discovers her dead in the bathroom. This starts off the mystery of who could have poisoned a woman in such a public setting and why.
I liked the beginning way the author started off the mystery, the murder happens fairly quickly and then we get relaying of events with each chapter having a specific character giving their account to Detective Wolf. This helps to introduce us to the characters, set the scene, and engage the reader in who is and isn't telling the truth while shifting through the character's testimony.
While I thought the layout of the murder mystery started off strong, I would have liked to have felt like I knew Hana and her family better. It is not until the latter half of the story that I finally felt like I “knew” them, cared, and felt settled in their world. The murder mystery is obviously the highlight of the story but I like to care about the main characters we are following along with.
“You’re falling prey to an illusion. They’re elderly, and they have accents, but they’re not automatically harmless.”
My stomach felt sick. “Jekyll and Hyde,” I said.
“You bet. And it’s my job to find Hyde. In everyone.” His face was solemn.
The relationship between Erik Wolf and Hana was a bit too immediate. Wolf's character was very dry and not fleshed out enough for me; he felt like a blank slate. I did like how the author created a plausible excuse for Hana to be somewhat involved in the investigation, her and her family translate Hungarian to English for him and explain some Hungarian cultural norms and structures.
The story structure reaches out from Hana and her mother and grandmother, this was a matriarchal cozy mystery. There was some supernatural or mystic elements added with Hana inheriting “gifts” or “sight” from the female line in her family. The Jekyll and Hyde theme is threaded throughout with the how could the killer be a “little old woman”?
Later, I realized it was because we had innocent hearts, and my grandmother had always told me that the innocent heart cannot see the evil one, but that evil could see evil because “they live in the same darkness, and they learn to see in the dark.”
I thought the mystery was wrapped up well, the author gave us meaning and backstory for reasons and it wasn't all Scooby Doo dumped at the end. I did think this had a little bit of a heavier feel than the usual light cozy mystery. The inclusion of recipes at the end was delightful as the author will make you hungry with all the descriptions of food throughout the story.
Detective Wolf was too much of a blank slate for me and his romance with Hana lacked depth in its immediacy. The murder mystery started off strong, lost some steam in the middle, but had a satisfactory explanation, and sad one. Hana's family supernatural abilities added a fun twist and all the Hungarian folklore, food, and culture additives gave this a special feel. A pleasing start to a series where I'll look for more depth to certain characters and relationships when the next mystery pops up.
A little afternoon cozy mystery reading :)
Fav, I make it all the time!
Chris' Fish Place has put out a call for some historical fiction recs. With some romance genre flavor, here are my recs.
Historical fiction with some romance
Roundheads and Cavaliers series by Stella Riley
I've only read the first two in the series of four, but the focus is on the historical events and figures taking place during this time. The series follows two families, each has a highlighted character, with one family being a Roundhead and the other Cavaliers. The romance is lighter in these but I enjoyed the heck out of all the history going on, Riley is a gifted storyteller.
Renegades of the American Revolution series by Donna Thorland
I've read all four in the series, only wrote reviews for these two, and loved each book. Again, the romance isn't the focus as we follow women impacted by the American Revolutionary War. There is a spy ring that ties the series together, loved all the history in this one and how Thorland centered women actively involved in the war and one's just trying to live their lives but actively impacted it just the same.
Goddess of Fire by Bharti Kirchner
1600s India with real historical figures and events with the author's interpretation of what their thoughts and feelings could have been behind some actions. Follows a seventeen year old India girl as she fights to not be thrown on her husband's funeral pyre, marries an Englishman, and fights for her country and culture.
Lovesick by Angeles Mastretta
A lot of the story takes place during the Mexican Revolution (1910-20) and spans nearly 50 years as we follow Emilia and her quest to live her life.
Romance Historical fiction
Robin Hood series by Marsha Canham
This is a three book series but I would only recommend the first two. The way the author weaved history, legend, and myths into the fictional story was brilliant. Real historical figures and events are throughout the story as you follow along with a heroine and hero falling in love. There's nothing cheesy here and I just loved this re imagined Robin Hood take.
Highland series by Marsha Canham
Again, I loved how this author weaved real historical events and figures into this romance. This is another three book series but the first two were the ones I really feel in love with. The heroine is English and the hero Scottish and this is during the Jacobite Rebellion. This is a look at how Scotland was devastated by these wars, Culloden is not shied away from here. If you start book one, make sure to have book two handy, as it continues the story of the hero and heroine. Also, expect to maybe shed a tear or two.
Rakes and Rogues of the Restoration series by Judith James
This is a three book series, 1 and 3 are the ones I would recommend. The looming Civil War in the first book, with all the history and the two leads being swept away from it all, made for a highly entertaining read. The hero is loosely based on John Wilmot and my history loving heart couldn't get enough of this one. Very epic, sweeping historical romance feel.
Naked: A Novel of Lady Godiva by Eliza Redgold
Told from Godiva's point of view, this is more romance than historical fiction but I still enjoyed this author's fictional take on Lady Godiva's life. The author also had the villain of the piece be a real life historical figure, Thurkill the Tall. The writing style takes a bit to get used to, kind of a poetic beat to it but I enjoyed this medieval time piece.
The Drowning Guard: A Novel of the Ottoman Empire by Linda Lafferty
This has shades of grey characters that I became deeply invested in, their thoughts, feelings, and motivations. The story takes place in Istanbul (1820s) and the way the author writes it, it becomes a character in itself.
Truly by Mary Balogh
This has the Rebecca Riots in it and I loved how even though this takes place in the mid-1800s in Wales, the themes (economics and classism) addressed here felt very timely. The set of characters highlight different view points and ideas and I just loved everything about this.
Indigo by Beverly Jenkins
You really can't go wrong if wanting some history in your romance by picking up a Jenkins' book but this was one of my favorites of hers. There's a lot of history weaved into this story, real events and characters. Historical fiction is a great place to explore real events that impacted people that don't always make it into the history books. Jenkins does a great job personalizing events that feel lost in the past but still have impacts today.
This is one of my favorite romance authors and if you're into historical romance, there are always real events and figures weaved into her stories. I couldn't even tell you how many hours have been lost googling things I've read in her books.
Lerner and Milan are two authors that if you like historical romance, they are a must read. They always have detailed historical settings and seem to be able to add elements that enrich my historical knowledge or get me actively engaged in new thoughts of the past.
4.7 stars - Fix Her Up review
3.5 stars - Unbreak Me review
3.5 stars - The Golden Hour review
What were you top three reads of the month?
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.
Nesto has decided to take a big chance and take his Afro-Carribean food truck from New York City to Ithaca. His mother and sister live up there but he'll be leaving behind a bunch of friends who provide a great support system.
Growing up, books were important to Jude, it's no wonder he became a librarian. He's been dreaming of getting a mobile book van going but funding is tight.
Nesto and Jude both have dreams and when they meet, their chemistry can't be denied. Nesto is outgoing but a workaholic, Jude is shy and reserved, and not everyone in Ithaca wants change.
Getting the rundown of a burrito menu should not be this erotic.
First in the Dreamers series, American Dreamer, introduces us to a Nesto, Jude, and their friends and family. There were a lot of characters to keep track of, I felt a little overwhelmed at times but Nesto's friends play such a important role in his life, they had to be there supporting him. The contrast of how supportive Nesto's family was with Jude's intolerant religious one was sad and maddening. I did think the drama with Jude's family at the end felt rushed in; it was introduced and over with before I could get a big emotional reaction from it. Jude simply talking to Nesto about his family had me feeling more.
Nesto's family couldn't have been more different from Jude's and even though there were a lot of characters to keep track of, it did fill out the story and create a sense of community for the setting, along with some series baiting characters. I feel like I got a fuller and better understanding of Nesto's character through his interactions with his friends and family. Jude being a more self-contained person, he does have a bestfriend he works with that give us an insight to him, he didn't pop off the pages as much to me. I occasionally did have problems remembering who was speaking at times, this is first person pov with switching povs, when Nesto and Jude were together as their written voice tended to blend together every so often.
The attraction between the two is pretty immediate and even though they don't jump into bed right away, their sexual relationship is ramped up pretty quickly. I missed a more gradual getting to know, instead of this insta, but with later on two wrenches thrown in to create some angst. There was also some time jumps that I thought kept us from getting those relationship building blocks, we're told they've spent every night of the week together but don't get any scenes of them bonding. The story gives you a sense that they are just in love and even though I'm told that, I'm not sure I felt it or was given enough evidence for it.
I looked for a reason to be afraid of what I was feeling, but the only thing I felt was peace.
Along with Nesto's workaholic ways, which by the way, I would have given the guy more slack with how hard it is to try and start a business and Jude's reserved emotional issues and late in the story family ones, there was a “villain” causing some problems for these two. Misty, the wannabe town matriarch, described as “wearing one of those workout outfits people don't actually workout in” (we all know this person) and trying to shut down Nesto's food truck so her son's truck would have a better chance to succeed. She's a bit of a pencil sketch character as she only pops up to spew her hatred, I think getting some scenes with her son with the food truck would have helped this a little bit, but while the danger of her lingers throughout the story, we don't actually see her a lot. Her character works to show how racism and bigotry from even one person can have the power to use and influence societal structures to continuously keep some down.
As I mentioned, I thought Nesto was the stronger character, he had so many wonderful little details, like the name of his food truck was OuNYe. This was worked from the Yoruba word “ounje”, which means nourishment and of course to include New York, love details like this. The friendships were written great in this and helped to create a community and framework I believed in. The romance was a little too insta for me and I missed some relationship building blocks but Nesto's outgoing personality that Jude couldn't help but be drawn to and Jude's shy, cute, and funny personality that Nesto couldn't help but want to get to know more was a sweet romance to read.
He was so beautiful, and his face looked so open, so earnest. I almost told him I wanted to hear all of it, to know him. I almost said, "I want you here" even though it felt sort of ridiculous.
Jude, you little shy, heartfelt guy, SAY IT!
I have never seen or received better author swag in my life, recipe cards of food talked about in the book!
I made the Dominican Red Beans, I think mine came out a little more soupy than they are suppose to but they still tasted great
I love the added dimension this swag adds to the reading experience, not to mention the yummy
Ready to spy on your romance, Nesto and Jude...
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.
If there was anyone I didn't expect to lean on when my own house of cards went up in flames a few years later, it was the newly appointed sheriff of Loveless, Texas, Case Lawton.
When Aspen moved to the small town of Loveless, Texas, her pale skin and black clothes had kids calling her “weirdo girl”. The one bright spot was Case Lawton, a popular jock who Aspen had a big crush on and treated her with kindness.
Nine years later, Aspen is back in Loveless, married to the town rich boy and a lawyer trying to fight for women and children usually ignored by the system. She gets pressured by her father-in-law to represent Case's ex-wife in their divorce, any sweet high school memories are in danger of getting wiped away.
Case was the town golden boy who had circumstances work against him to finally be able to leave Loveless for good. His corrupt sheriff father was a nightmare to live with and as his boss, Case does all he can to limit any damage his father can do now. Even though its been nine years later, he still blames Aspen Barlow for helping to take away his son. When it looks like her life is in danger, as the new sheriff, he won't act like his father and let personal grudges dictate how he does his job, so he puts himself in charge of her safety.
From high school friends, to enemies, to forced proximity, Aspen and Case might finally end up where they belonged all along.
There were worse things in the world than being the focus of Case Lawton's concern. I just had to remind myself not to get used to it.
After all, he was only doing his job.
The first full length novel in the Loveless, Texas series, we are introduced and reacquainted with some characters from Crownover's other books. I wish I had read the starter novella to this series, as I felt like I was missing out on some introduction to this town and to the Lawton family. Case's sister Kody was a developed secondary character and we got some scenes that provided insight into their sibling relationship but I felt that lacking with Case's younger brother Crew, who was the star of the novella. The Lawton siblings seem to have a tight knit relationship but Crew remained in the shadows too much for me to fully feel this, helping to fill out insights to Case's character and personality. The trauma filled childhood these three seemed to have had, felt emotionally removed here; this could have been more addressed in the novella.
The same could be said about Aspen's relationship with her parents, I had troubles fully grasping her background. I was missing some emotions from her childhood and relationship with her parents (this becomes even more important as it plays a big role in the ending) and an understanding and feel for her relationship with her ex-husband. They're not the core of the story but they are a foundation for Aspen's character that I felt was missing and caused me to not fully grasp her.
My hands tightened into fists in front of me, and I lifted my head so I could look at her in the mirror. Her dark eyes met mine with a mischievous gleam.
“What exactly are you doing, Counselor?”
She laughed, and the puff of air was warm against my shoulder. “I honestly have no idea, but it's the only thing that's felt right in a very long time. You said no kissing. This isn't kissing.” Her thumb traced the delineated lines on my lower abdomen, and her fingernails dragged through the thin trail of dark hair that arrowed below my belly button.
For the most part, I believed in the journey Aspen and Case went on from friends, to enemies, to hot and heavy for each other. I thought there was enough relayed to see why Aspen liked Case growing up, how Case placed blame on Aspen (I thought there were too many scenes of Aspen mentally playing martyr over being the ex-wife's lawyer), and these two had sexual chemistry. I can't say I totally bought into their “I love yous”, though. Whether it was missing some background foundation to their characters, not enough scenes hashing out, growing together, or depth, I thought they both got to love too quickly. Some of the sexual situations felt awkward, as they were immediate fade to black, leaving a feeling of “what happened now” and others were deliciously drawn out, bathroom scene, anyone?
As I mentioned, Crownover brings over some previous characters seen in her other series, Sons of Sorrow with Marine Shot and even Case is a character featured before. I enjoyed how she utilized these secondary characters, creating an “oooh I know him!” and helping out to fill and broaden this story. I do wish some were filled out more, the villain of this will make you gasp, but while there is shock, there wasn't as much weightiness to the reveal as there could have been. The villainy plot gets a bit convoluted in the whos and whys.
Overall, the story wasn't completely rounded out or had depth in some areas to my satisfaction but there's charisma to Crownover's writing and magnetism to Loveless and the residents she has created. I'm completely locked into wanting to see Case's younger sister Kody and her deceased fiance's brother, Texas Ranger Hill Gamble, fight to deny their chemistry in the next book.
One second, we were staring at each other as I held her like she was the most precious thing on the planet, the next my mouth was all over hers, and I was kissing her the way you kissed someone you loved and hated at the same time. A little sweet, a little mean, and with enough passion to make us both forget we had a long, twisted road paved with mistakes and memories running between us.
I didn’t feel like I was being placated or patronized. I felt like I was being heard and sympathized with. I never would have guessed a big, tough, hyper masculine man like Case was so full of empathy and compassion. I was starting to see him in an entirely new light, and I liked what I was seeing.
Fifth in the Cavensham Heiresses series, you'll remember Will Cavensham as the sweet but closed off brother to the previous heroines and hero in this series. We learn that he was coldly jilted in his youth and has therefore locked his heart away for good. When his aunt tells him about her neighbor who needs their help, he's stunned by his feelings for her.
Thea has been on her own for a while. Her grandfather took her in at a young age when her parents died but in his older age and decline of health, all the estate responsibilities of Ladykyrk fell to her. Now that he has died, the new heir is also claiming that the title she inherited that makes her a countess and the rightful owner of Ladykryk, should actually go to him.
Will and Thea become fast friends but they doth protest too much about being more.
All her thoughts were consumed by the declaration that the new duke wanted Ladykyrk---her home, her life. Not only must she find a new solicitor, but also a husband.
The set-up of Thea thinking and being told she should have a husband to give her credibility and a man's added power to fight and win her claim of the rightful owner of Ladykryk was a good and all too familiar look into how women lacked certain rights at this time. What failed to work for me though, was how quickly Thea and Will's feelings for one another developed. Will is supposed to be this completely walled off man but he instantly feels a connection to Thea and is all in on helping her fight for her claim. As the reader, I just couldn't buy into his feelings or feel any depth to his emotions for Thea.
From Thea's side of things, her instant refusal to marry Will, at first simply because she doesn't want to marry the first man she meets, was confusing as there was a stated sense of emergency to the purpose she wanted/needed to marry. The plot falls apart as it was simultaneously laid out and then kind of ignored.
Her cheeks were flushed with excitement rather than nervousness. She wasn't just lovely.
She was beautiful.
Will turned to his brother. “But she's just a friend.”
This was a pretty sweet, almost tooth achingly at times, and low angst story. The pace dragged for me as most of the story was Will and Thea speaking out loud that they are only friends but then completely acting and thinking differently, it gave the story a very conflicting feel. There really isn't a reason or challenge to these two getting together (there is a last second wedge thrown in there at the very end that is resolved very quickly) and therefore their weak denials, especially when their actions are the opposite of just wanting to remain friends, slows the pace of the book way down and kind of started to annoy me with their actions.
There are some racy sex scenes in this but I had a hard time getting into them. That level of sexual intimacy didn't jive for me with how and where the characters felt to be mentally; sex added in for sex sake.
Will ran a hand down his face. He didn't think he was a playing a game, but if he was, he wished he understood the rules.
One thing was becoming clearer.
What he and Thea shared was becoming all too real.
What I did enjoy about this was how the author wrote the Cavensham family, you'll see past heroes and heroines and the author incorporates them perfectly. They never steal the show but they added some warmth and dimension to Will and some lovely nostalgia if you've read the previous books in the series.
As I mentioned, there isn't much conflict or angst in this one and if you're looking for a very slow to come to terms with what everyone else has already figured out couple, this would fit the bill, along with some open door steamy scenes.
Such an inspiring cover ;)
Nothing but rich decadent brownies would do for this reading experience.
And the hero is a sheriff with a grudge against the heroine he now has to protect.
Deliciousness all around!
Not going to lie, these are a commitment to make, have at least three hours available.
I flipped them on their sides so you could see all those yummy layers. So rich and so yummy
”How did we end up here?” she breathlessly whispered.
He stood still, not daring to move closer to her and her enchantment. “You led us here.”
Since I don't do Copy a Romance Cover much anymore, Raiden wanted to pop in and say hi.
I've been posting pics of him over on Instagram - https://www.instagram.com/witjr30/ periodically, so if wondering what he is up to (spoiler alert - snoozing and catching rays) feel free to pop over there and get your good doggo fix.
I think I've mentioned some health problems we've been dealing with, so a quick update to people who get invested in internet dog lives like I do.
He is a little over eight years old now, which for Rottweilers, is getting up there. Two years ago we kind of noticed what people generally call Fly snapping. This video is exactly what he was doing https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M2t-F3yORZo
He'd also whip around to look at his butt as if a bug was there. His leg licking started to get bad, he would only be able to play for a minute before he'd stop to lick. The vet consulted with a neurosurgeon and after watching videos of Raiden, said they were probably partial seizures.
We could do an MRI, brain scan to look for a tumor but the cost and fact that brain surgery was not an option for us, had us declining. At this point they were getting troublesome but didn't seem like a medical emergency, so the vet gave me drug options we could start him on and I was reading about them online.
After his yearly checkup the vet recommended a teeth cleaning, I asked if going under anesthesia would be a problem for him, she said it shouldn't be. Now, correlation does not mean causation as all you good science people know, but when he came back home, the next day was awful. He would snap and pace for hours and when he grew tired wedge himself in our basement bathroom between the toilet and shower facing the wall. For three days that was all he would do. Not a good week for us as I'm sure you can imagine as we thought we only had one choice at that point.
The vet suggested we try starting him on Phenobarbital. A drug with success in combating seizures in dogs. I wasn't a complete fan of this because I had read how it destroys dog's livers but this seemed like a we have to do something pretty quick. Two weeks on Pheno and his seizures were 95% gone.
This was about a year ago and while sometimes I can tell a bigger seizure pops through, he'll snap and lick but for only under five minutes, compared to the hours long episodes and no wedging, facing wall in bathroom.
The vet and neurosurgeon said we couldn't be 100% sure it was a brain tumor without brain scan but it was their best guess. Now that he hasn't regressed or gotten worse, they seem a little baffled but I'll just take any healthy time I can have with him.
About five years ago he had TPLO surgery, basically what would be a torn MCL/ACL in a human knee and we were told there was a 70% chance the other leg would go too in the first year after surgery. We made it past that first year, so we felt pretty good. Unfortunately, though, it looks like, while not completely torn, his other leg is facing the same problem. If you know anything about this surgery, it's not cheap. So right now we have him on Meloxicam, basically a pain med, and he hasn't whined in pain and actually steps on the leg, so definitely helped.
We did a full wellness exam to see if he would even be healthy enough for the surgery and his x-rays came back no bone cancer, which if you know Rottweilers this was big at 8yrs but his liver results weren't good, his levels were very elevated from last time.
So, where we're at, getting liver blood work done again next month to check that issue out and make final decision on whether to get the surgery done or not.
I become a mess even trying to talk about this to people who ask about him, my default is not to even talk about it and just say "He's good!". I don't consider him my "doggie child" but he's one of my bestfriends and it is rough hearing words like brain tumor, liver levels elevated, or even his eyes are starting to get cloudy from age, losing a little of his hearing, or just the tone of the vet when she says, "Now, he is an eight year old Rottie."
So, please enjoy the pics of him sleeping, smiling, begging for food, occasional dress up, and graying snout because they are a lot easier to post than talking about his health issues. I'll try to remember to post more pics over here but Instagram is an easier format when I'm just posting on the fly.
Anyway, if you made it this far, thanks for always enjoying Raiden's pictures :)