New Release Review! SOMEONE TO HOLD by Mary Balogh (Westcotts #2)


Someone to Hold

by Mary Balogh

Synopsis:

Humphrey Wescott, Earl of Riverdale, has died, leaving behind a fortune and a scandalous secret that will forever alter the lives of his family—sending one daughter on a journey of self-discovery…

With her parents’ marriage declared bigamous, Camille Westcott is now illegitimate and without a title. Looking to eschew the trappings of her old life, she leaves London to teach at the Bath orphanage where her newly discovered half-sister lived. But even as she settles in, she must sit for a portrait commissioned by her grandmother and endure an artist who riles her every nerve.

An art teacher at the orphanage that was once his home, Joel Cunningham has been hired to paint the portrait of the haughty new teacher. But as Camille poses for Joel, their mutual contempt soon turns to desire. And it is only the bond between them that will allow them to weather the rough storm that lies ahead…

 

Review:

Ms. Balogh has pulled off a miracle–not only did she have me feeling empathy for Camille, but by the book’s end I actually liked her! (She was pretty prickly, to put it nicely, in book 1–Someone to Love and even in the early parts of this one I had a hard time not rolling my eyes at her…)

What helped early on was seeing her take over her half-sister’s (her emphasis) job as teacher at the orphanage and trying so hard and being so sure that she was failing at it. (She wasn’t; she was brilliant, but boy can I sympathize with that “I don’t have a clue what I’m doing; what if I scar these kids for life?” feeling that she had.) At the beginning I was in total sympathy with Joel, who saw Camille as an unfeeling drill sergeant who was trying to usurp her half-sister’s former position–watching her with her pupils, though, that began to change for both of us. I loved watching both of them come to respect and like each other as the story progressed; their transition from two people who wanted nothing to do with each other to friends to lovers was nicely paced and believable.

And that ending…it tugged on my heartstrings big time! I cannot wait for the rest of the Westcotts to get their stories!

Rating: 4 1/2 stars / A

I voluntarily reviewed an Advance Reader Copy of this book.

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New Release Review! SOMEONE TO LOVE by Mary Balogh (Wescott #1)

Someone to Love
by Mary Balogh

Synopsis:

Humphrey Westcott, Earl of Riverdale, has died, leaving behind a fortune that will forever alter the lives of everyone in his family—including the daughter no one knew he had…

Anna Snow grew up in an orphanage in Bath knowing nothing of the family she came from. Now she discovers that the late Earl of Riverdale was her father and that she has inherited his fortune. She is also overjoyed to learn she has siblings. However, they want nothing to do with her or her attempts to share her new wealth. But the new earl’s guardian is interested in Anna…

Avery Archer, Duke of Netherby, keeps others at a distance. Yet something prompts him to aid Anna in her transition from orphan to lady. As London society and her newfound relatives threaten to overwhelm Anna, Avery steps in to rescue her and finds himself vulnerable to feelings and desires he has hidden so well and for so long.

 

Review:

A new series from Mary Balogh–woot! I adore her writing 🙂

I loved Anna from page one–how could I not? Raised in an orphanage from the age of four, she didn’t even know her birth name, let alone where she came from, for more than twenty years. At twenty-five, she’s of course aged out of the institution, but has stayed on as its teacher: she’s been happy there, has friends, and loves working with the children there. And then the letter that will change her life forever is delivered…

Avery was a bit harder to love at first. He’s not exactly your typical Regency hero–sure, he’s a duke and therefore wealthy and powerful, but he’s also slight, wiry, and “pretty”. His own father told him he might as well have been a girl. It was harder to get to know him, but that was by design–since the age of nine, when he was sent away to school, he’s made a point of hiding his true self from everyone around him. We, like Anna, only get to know him a bit at a time.

But once he lets her in….

I loved that Anna didn’t let her wealth change her much, and that that’s one of the things that so drew Avery to her. Their romance is slow moving, but delicious. My only complaint is that after almost 400 pages I wasn’t anywhere near ready to say goodbye to them. Here’s hoping we see a lot of them in series books to come, because I didn’t come close to getting my fill. 🙂

There are so many wonderful secondary characters in this series, and I really hope Ms. Balogh decides to write about them all: Anna’s half siblings Camille (her book’s next! Can’t wait), Abigail, and Harry; the new-new duke Alex (as opposed to the old-new duke, poor Harry) and his sister Elizabeth; and by the time they’ve all had their happy endings, it should be just about time for Avery’s half sister Jessica to be out of the nursery and ready for her own book.

In the meantime, I’m counting the days until February 7…

🙂

Rating: 4 1/2 stars / A-

I voluntarily reviewed an Advance Reader Copy of this book.

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NaNoWriMo, Why Do You Hate Me So? (Week in Review: 11-15-13)

Oh, NaNoWriMo, you always seem like such a good idea at the time…

Two years ago, I was happily plugging away at my NaNo novel when–my laptop died. Just died. On Thanksgiving, With a whole lot of tears, prayers, and desperate promises to whomever was listening, I managed to get it to boot up one last time so I could get my project off of it (yes, I know, always back up your work, and I do. Just not as often as I should, obviously) and then woke up at 4 AM on Black Friday to camp out at our Radio Shack to buy a new one.

And then I went home to set it up, do some quick shopping, and WRITE. Crisis averted, though my pocketbook was much thinner.

Last year was without major technological incident. I should have known.

Thursday of this week–almost halfway done with the month–my laptop’s monitor cracks. Totally out of the blue–I used it in the afternoon, hibernated it, set it aside, and when I came back to it six hours later–A CRACK. I could see well enough to get my latest version of my novel onto a flash drive, fortunately, so I was able to write that night with the desktop, which is usually the Mini Moes’ domain. On the plus side, they weren’t down on the desktop while I was writing, giggling like loons. On the minus side, the keyboard felt all wrong to my fingers, and the F key sticks.

Not at all convenient when your hero’s name is Frank and the heroine is frequently called Miss Fairfax by those near and dear to her, believe me.

After some Internet research (Google is my bestie!), I decided not to burden Mini Moe #1 with the task of trying to fix it, no matter how many websites claim the fix is easy and for total beginners. Instead, I dropped my baby off at a local repair shop that had a replacement screen in stock and charges a flat fee for repairs AND is only fifteen minutes from my house. Fingers crossed, I’ll have it back tomorrow afternoon.

And be two hundred dollars poorer.

But I’ll be able to write again, as God intended–on my own laptop.

Despite the impending crisis and novelling stress, I somehow still managed to get some reading done this week–though it was mostly novellas. Five of them, if you’re counting: ‘Tis the Season to Kiss Santa, ‘Tis the Season to Get Lucky, Neighbors, On His List, and Roman Holiday 1: Chained. The last two are highly recommended, especially if you’ve had a week like mine and you need a good laugh.

I also finished a few longer books: The Christmas Cookie Collection by Lori Wilde, Mary Balogh’s The Arrangement and Definitely, Maybe in Love and am working my way through Mine by Katy Evans and Read it and Weep by Jenn McKinlay. Remy, the next book after Mine, is next on the list, then Bittersweet Magic by Nina Croft.

And yes, probably a few more novellas, because they’re instant gratification and I’m really supposed to be writing more this month than reading anyway. As soon as I get my laptop back, that is.

On audio, I finally finished The House of Hades–fabulous read! Not as cliffhanger-ish at the end as Mark of Athena, thank goodness, so the wait for the next book won’t be quite as painful. I really do think I like the Heroes of Olympus series even better than the Percy Jackson and the Olympians one–I just love the blend of Greek and Roman mythology in them, as well as the expanded cast of characters.

And for your reading pleasure: Barnes and Noble posted a “10 Signs Someone You Know is Doing National Novel Writing Month” blog post earlier this week that I just had to share. Do YOU know the signs? Numbers 4, 7, and 8 are my favorites…and can I just say that 8 is so, so true? Not to mention, grossly unfair.

Tiny bridges of lies and betrayal indeed….

What punctuation mark, if any, do you have a love/hate relationship with? (And if your answer is none, why not?)

Update: My laptop screen has been replaced, but apparently now it WON’T TURN ON. Yeah. Had to leave it at the repair shop–I am clearly CURSED. The “boss” will look at it first thing on Monday. MONDAY. So I am writing on the sticky-keyboard desktop until then, and HAVE NO LAPTOP TO HOOK UP TO THE SMARTBOARD AT SCHOOL ON MONDAY.

I might need to take a personal “mental health” day Monday, because obviously I’m hanging by a thread here. On the plus side, I do have 35 Catholic school children witnesses that my laptop was absolutely able to turn on Friday afternoon, before I took it in….

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Book Review: Mary Balogh’s The Arrangement (The Survivors’ Club series, book two)

 Title: The Arrangement
Author: Mary Balogh
Series: The Survivors’ Club
Genre: Historical romance
Published: 2013
Pages: 400
Format read: paperback and ebook
Rating: A-

Blurb:

Desperate to escape his mother’s matchmaking, Vincent Hunt, Viscount Darleigh, flees to a remote country village. But even there, another marital trap is sprung. So when Miss Sophia Fry’s intervention on his behalf finds her unceremoniously booted from her guardian’s home, Vincent is compelled to act. He may have been blinded in battle, but he can see a solution to both their problems: marriage.

At first, quiet, unassuming Sophia rejects Vincent’s proposal. But when such a gloriously handsome man persuades her that he needs a wife of his own choosing as much as she needs protection from destitution, she agrees. Her alternative is too dreadful to contemplate. But how can an all-consuming fire burn from such a cold arrangement? As friendship and camaraderie lead to sweet seduction and erotic pleasure, dare they believe a bargain born of desperation might lead them both to a love destined to be?

Review:

While it’s true that this read lacked any major conflict and drama, the characters themselves were just so earnest, sweet, and well-intentioned that I just had to love them–and the book by extension–anyway.

The Arrangement was a satisfying read all around. I loved the idea of a blind hero–and the differences between how his family treated him and his blindness (We must protect him! We must do everything for this poor, helpless boy!) and the way Sophie and Vincent’s fellow members of the “Survivor’s Club” treated him was very telling. I especially enjoyed all of the ways Sophie came up with to help her new husband deal with his handicap and become more self-sufficient–it’s exactly what the overly coddled hero of the first few chapters needed.

Really, the only drama in this book–beyond Sophie’s Cinderella-like existence in the beginning–came from the minds of the hero and heroine themselves. They definitely could have solved their “problem” much earlier with an honest conversation, but at the same time I completely understand why they didn’t–neither was willing to risk what they had together without a little more encouragement from the other.

In a nutshell: if you’re looking for a big, dramatic read–you’re not going to find it here. If, on the other hand, a sweet and gentle story about two characters who are perfect for each other gradually discovering that fact is what you’re after…then look no further than Mary Balogh’s The Arrangement. A- rating.

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Week in Review: What I’m Reading (Writing. I mean WRITING. 11-9-13)

 

It’s November 9, so all the WriMos out there know what that means, right? Time for the all-day writing marathon, online and locally! (I get emails from my local chapter, but have yet to actually attend any of their events. If you’re not as lame as I am, you can find your local liaison here and see if they have anything planned that you can join in on.)

It’s also a big day for donations, so if you think the NaNoWriMo program is one that should be kept going, please consider a donation! You’ll get a cool halo on your profile pic on the website, and have the chance to win hourly prizes. (You can also choose to have your donation go towards the Young Writer’s Program part of the organization. I’m just sayin’.)

Here’s the short-and-sweet version, straight from their site:

No time for reading… Must write!

The short version: Join us on Saturday, November 9 for day-long noveling madness in person and online, and donate to help us reach our $50K goal. Keep NaNoWriMo running the course for years to come!

All the glory of a traditional marathon, none of that pesky training. Just you, your novel, and a deep and abiding love of helping others discover the joy of writing.

We’ll see you there.

I will have to take a short break from the day-long madness to attend the Mini Moes’ high school football playoff game–they’ve made it to the big time yet again this year, and are playing at the Ralph, where the Buffalo Bills play! (And frequently lose. But that’s a whole ‘nuther story.) But that’s my only major plans for the day, and then it will be back to catching up on my word count. And making a donation. And catching up even more on my word count.

Keep your eyes peeled to that word count widget, ’cause it’s going to be moving! I hope.

I’ll admit it, though–I did get some reading done this week. Not a lot, but some. In ebook I read Ghosts of the Falls and Ghosts of Kingston Cottage–despite similar names and locations (both are set in Maine, oddly enough, one of my favorite states to visit), they were really refreshingly different. Next I started T.J. Bennett’s Dark Angel (see her Becky on Books interview here) in ebook and the actual, real-live print version of Read it and Weep by Jenn McKinlay. Up next…too much to read. Especially when I need to be WRITING.

Oh, and the final installment was up on Monday, so I also finished reading Ruthie Knox’s Truly on Wattpad. Absolutely. LOVED. Will post a review next week. Run, don’t walk to Wattpad to sign up and read it while it’s still available!

On audio, still listening to The House of Hades. Actually lost track of my iPod for a day and a half this week and thought my brain would self-combust. The end is in sight (not that I want it to end, it’s a fantastic addition to the series), and next I’ll be picking up Mary Balogh’s The Arrangement because at this rate I’ll never finish the print copy and I’m dying to find out how Vincent and Sophia finally figure out what everyone else has known all along–that those two crazy kids are perfect for one another.

Yep, broke down and got the audio. Even though I already own the print AND ebook copies. No, I don’t think I have a problem. At least, I’m fairly certain I don’t.

Really.

How has your week been? Here’s hoping I can avoid the depths of despair that week  two (and three, for that matter. Don’t even get me started on week four. Why do I do this to myself again? I forget…) of NaNo frequently bring…

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Books on Sale: Another Barnes & Noble Nook Book Sale!

book dog

 

In case you couldn’t make it to the Baltimore Book Festival–or perhaps even if you could–Barnes & Noble is having another big Nook book sale this weekend! Apparently, there’s 300 books on sale altogether for 50% off. Many of them are fairly pricey regularly, so they’re not all super cheap, but there’s some pretty big titles here, including:

Dr. SleepStephen King’s latest and the sequel to The Shining, is $7.49  

 

 …and in case you missed it, The Shining is on sale too, for $3.99.

 

Rachel Gibson’s latest, Run to You, just came out on Tuesday, and it’s $3.99. 

 

Mirror, Mirror, a collection of fairy-tale-with-a-modern-twist stories from authors J.D. Robb, Mary Blayney, Elaine Fox, Mary Kay McComas, and R.C. Ryan, is just $3.99. 

 

If you’re like me and need to read the book before it comes out in theaters, you won’t want to miss Markus Zusak’s The Book Thief–which had better be a fantastic film, by the way, because the book is awesome.  Mini Moe#2 and I saw a preview when we saw The City of Bones, and it definitely looked promising,

 

I started reading Mary Balogh’s The Arrangement on the plane–I got a print ARC from LibraryThing’s Early Reviewers program–and so far it’s absolutely wonderful. It’s on sale for $3.99. The first book in the Survivor’s Club series, The Proposal, is on sale too, so I’ve already picked it up. It’s the only responsible thing to do, after all. The series really should be kept together.

     

 

There’s 293 more on sale–many of them very recent releases, but also many older (and much less expensive) well-known titles as well. It’s definitely worth checking out before the weekend’s over. I’ve only verified with a few titles so far, but it does look like Amazon is price matching their Kindle books as well if you’re a Kindle user.

(Unless your credit card is already sitting in the corner, quietly sobbing, like mine is. In that case, don’t torture yourself needlessly. Darn you, Baltimore Book Festival and your many temptations!)

Dog and book photo credit: betta design via photopin cc

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