Book Review: Hearts West: True Stories of Mail-Order Brides on the Frontier by Chris Enss

FIVE STARS

I needed to do some research for my next novel. My female main character is going to be a mail-order bride. The problem was I didn’t know anything about them other than what I’ve read in fiction. There’s always some truth in fiction, but I needed something from the gut. I needed hard facts. I got them in this book.

The book is a fascinating account of women traveling West by ship or stagecoach and the men who asked them to come. But it was much more than that. Some women came on their own in search of a husband. They had to pay their own passages and make their own accommodations. Other women were instrumental in the process, which made this even more interesting.

There aren’t any horrific stories told, but there are instances of great sadness, especially when these women had to bury their children. The people of this time kept records and journals of almost everything and these stories are in this book.

There are reprints of ads placed in the personal columns of matrimonial newspapers from San Francisco and Kansas City, Missouri. People were brutally honest back then with what they wanted and what they had to offer. People wanted to marry for money and for assets. Fortunately, a lot of these relationships worked out and many couples got their happily-ever-afters. Some didn’t.

I got the information I needed in this great little book. It didn’t take long to get through it. I enjoyed reading the personal ads and the playbills that were included (Hellooo online dating 150 years later) and reading the abbreviated stories of these strong, fearless women that made their way to a wild country they knew nothing about in an effort to do their part in attempting to tame it, seek companionship, and if they were lucky, they would find love.

Fantastic, interesting read.

Oh, one more thing. It was risky business doing something like this back then–it is now–but I want to quote this part of the book: Often, when a pair met, the groom-to-be signed an agreement, witnessed by three upstanding members of the territory, not to abuse or mistreat the bride-to-be. The prospective bride then signed a paper (also witnessed) not to nag or try to change the intended.

I purchased this book at on online used bookstore.

Book Review: Sinful Scot (Highlanders Through Time #1) by Julie Johnstone and Cecelia Mecca

FIVE STARS

I liked this book a lot. It had great characters that clicked right from the start, an interesting story, and some mild love scenes. I liked the time travel element. It’s got modern day things that happen combined with historical things and in this book, they were pulled together in a good way.

Rhys McCaim and his three brothers are concerned about their father’s mental well-being. Their mother, Shona, disappeared without a trace five years ago and their father hasn’t been the same. He’s now in a coma and the doctor recommended that their father have his loved ones talk to him in an effort to bring him around. They know he loved no one more than their mother and thought he was demented for believing their mother came from another time, but anything is worth a shot and that sends the four of them on a mission to get their mother back.

The scene where Rhys was sent back in time was done really well. It’s a good thing, not to mention done by design, that Rhys had taken college courses in Scottish history. He knew Gaelic and he knew how to ride a horse. His mother had insisted on some of this while he was growing up. I’m not sure she did the same with his brothers, but I guess I’ll find out as the series unfolds. Rhys didn’t know anything about how to wield weapons of that time, but he was a boxer and that helped him while he was in the past.

The first person Rhys encounters is Maggie Irvine and it’s moments after he emerges from the water. She’s swimming alone at night when he surfaces. He’s dressed strangely, doesn’t have the proper Scottish brogue, and is just different all around. He scared her and rightfully so, but she goes to great lengths to save him when he is declared the “Devil’s Hand”.

Okay, as much as I enjoyed this book, a couple of things jumped into my head while I was reading it. I understand that Rhys needed Maggie to believe that he was from the future, but he held the future of Scotland in his hands because he already knew what was going to happen. That’s some pretty awesome power. He could change history.

*He knew things, but did he have to tell her everything? Did he have to take that far?
*Did he not miss the conveniences of running water, having a car, or a telephone?
*He was wealthy in his time, too. Did he not miss all the comforts that brought?
*Could he, or anyone for that matter, really give it all up for love?

These are just a few questions that I thought of while I read this, but this is the first book of a series and there’s a lot to be revealed in the books that follow. This ain’t over yet.

I love books that make me think outside the box and this book definitely did this. I loved everything about it and am excited to read the next book in the series.

*I received a free copy of this book and voluntarily left a review.

Purchase at Amazon: https://amzn.to/3dtpBfR

Book Review: Controlled Chaos (The Other Bennetts Book 1) by Kate Allenton

FIVE STARS

Clara Bennett is the cousin of the sisters in the Bennett Dynasty series and she, like the others, has a certain gift or power. She knows how she’s going to die and she knows who is going to kill her. But she sees things, too and envisions events that actually happen. She knows when she meets Porter Anderson that he’s going to be the guy who pulls the trigger and she is never wrong.

Porter has a gift of his own…maybe it’s more of a curse. Women cannot resist him. No matter how he tries to turn off the attraction, women continue to throw themselves at him and pretty much get stupid over him. Clara is immune to this “love voodoo” and when she’s around, the other women don’t seem attracted to Porter. He needs her around to turn that off because he’s working on a case where there are a lot of young women around and he can’t have them hanging on him.

This case is personal to him because it involves his mother, his deceased father, and the now stepfather. But he didn’t know that until a little later in the book. He knew something wasn’t right and it was a case, but he was going in under the guise of giving a speech at a graduation and Clara was his fiancee.

But things never go as they should and it doesn’t take long for details to be revealed. The book is short, exciting, and suspenseful. It grabbed me from the beginning and didn’t let go until the very end. There was simmering tension between Clara and Porter that ended in a fade-to-black love scene. That was okay with me. It is a romantic suspense and there was enough of both to sweep it to the end in a flourish.

I enjoyed this book very much, but I want to see what these characters look like. I can only imagine that Clara looks like the woman on the cover and the only description of Porter is that he has caramel-colored eyes. I want to see the rest. I want to know if Porter is as handsome as he is appealing, if that makes sense. I want to know what Clara looks like. She has dark hair and that’s about all that is said. The descriptions of everything else were great, but I want to see the characters. That’s just me, though. Some people don’t mind. I like to paint a picture in my mind and I had very little to go on. It’s a personal thing and I know not everybody shares my point of view.

But it was still a great book. An easy five stars for plot and intrigue. I’m anxious to read the next in the series.

*I received a free copy of this book and voluntarily left a review.

Purchase at Amazon:  https://amzn.to/3a4weTF

Book Review: Subtle Target (Six Assassins #2) by Jim Heskett and Nick Thacker

FIVE STARS

This is a hard review to write because one wrong word and the plot is blown as are the surprises. I don’t want to rob anyone of that, but I will advise that the first book (Primary Target) be read first.

The premise of the series is Ember Clarke is in a black dot combat situation. In the previous book, she accidentally killed another assassin who wasn’t supposed to be on the scene of her kill. He was from another branch of the Denver Assassins Club and somehow the two of them ended up with the same contract. It bears stating that the Denver Assassins Club (DAC) is a well-oiled machine with different branches that have their own people, but they all answer to David Wellner, who is the president of the whole deal. Anyway, this is the law of the jungle. Kill or be killed. Ember has six assassins after her. One a week for the next six weeks. She doesn’t know who will come after her or how they’re going to try to kill her. She has to figure it out and outsmart them or end up taking a dirt nap.

This book is week two.

Ember and Gabe go to the monthly lunch at their post office. They’re all ready for some good food and some fellowship when people start getting sick, including Gabe, her recruit. This is important because my gut tells me there’s going to be repercussions from this further into the series. Read the book and find out why.

Again, Ember has no idea who her assassin is or how they’re going to take her out. That adds suspense right from the very beginning. The surprise in this particular book was who it was and how they’re going to do it. I was as shocked as Ember. Mind. Blown. But you never really know anybody. This assassin was particularly disturbing.; more diabolical than others because it’s the last person anybody would ever suspect of having these kinds of thoughts and capabilities.

But what makes this worse is this assassin doesn’t do their own dirty work. Oh no. They have somebody try to do it for them. A man who is a little slow mentally and does everything this assassin tells him to do without questions. Ember realized this when she first met him and despite him being after her, she showed him some compassion.

The other part of the story is Zach Bennett. He’s a younger twenty-something-year-old college kid who does some kind of research for a company he knows nothing about. He gets paid well for it and the boss wants him to move from Colorado to California. That piques Zach’s interest about just who he’s working for (other things do, too) and when he starts investigating…I don’t know how this is going to end. What he’s into seems bigger than anything he can handle. He’s innocent, but try telling that to a judge.

Off the subject a little bit here, Ember has this hot neighbor guy yet she chooses to hang with the younger guys. She’s got a thing for Zach Bennett, which is sweet and he’s willing, but wow, she’s such a cougar. It’s not appalling or disgusting necessarily and both she and Zach are of age and consenting adults, but I picture him as just another college kid and she’s got far more life experience than he does. For now. I have a feeling things are going to start getting hairy for him in future books.

Ember’s hot neighbor guy. I’m not going to say who he is until he ends up making a move, if he ever does. I thought it was going to be in one scene in this book. I know he knew what was going on because when she got back, he was outside his door and gave her a nod and went back inside. Knowing that he’s there and what he’s capable of just puts me on edge. He hasn’t done anything so far and he may not ever do anything, but just the thought that he’s so close just adds to the tension and anticipation. He’s a sleepy character at this point. Maybe a sleeping bear would be a better description.

This book packed a punch, but in a different way than Primary Target, which had my heart pounding and my adrenaline kicked up. This is more suspenseful and the surprises came from the assassin who was to take out Ember. It kept me turning the pages and made me anxious to read the next book in the series.

*I received a free copy of this book and voluntarily left a review.

Purchase at Amazon: https://amzn.to/39TGRIO

Book Review: A Night to Surrender (Spindle Cove Book 1) by Tessa Dare

FIVE STARS

I started this book on audio and finished it by reading. The audio version was quite good, but I had time to listen to it only 40 minutes a day or so and then it wasn’t every day. Since I’d borrowed it from the library, I was running out of time and I wanted to finish it. The narrator was awesome with her inflections and her tone of voice and her British accent added more realism to the story, but I do prefer reading to listening.

Onto the story.

Victor Bramhell (Bram) has landed in hell as far as he’s concerned. Recovering from an injury he’d sustained in the military, he’s found himself and a few of his men in Spindle Cove. He didn’t want to be there and made it clear that he wanted to return to the infantry. His first encounter with Susannah Finch was memorable and he never got her out of his blood. But he resented her authority, schedules, and the fact that he had to keep his men separated from her ladies. He got to a point where he didn’t even want to hear her name.

Spindle Cove isn’t a normal village. It’s a haven or a resort for women who are considered not marriage material. They’re encouraged to pursue their passions for science, music, poetry–whatever their interests are. These ladies come to Spindle Cove to get a respite from London and to be accepted no matter what their interests or illnesses might be. They’re encouraged to be who they are without fear of judgment or retribution. Everybody is different and it’s okay.

Susannah lives there with her father, who is a retired general and an inventor. He’s the proverbial absent minded professor. He’s caught up with what he’s doing and pays little attention to her or anyone or anything else around him. Susannah is always looking out for him and is happy to do so. Too bad he was too self-absorbed to notice or even have an ounce of gratitude.

She had control of everything, but was never overbearing or boorish. She was kind, thoughtful, and considerate, even with Bram. She wasn’t afraid of anything and took him to task more than once. She wasn’t silly over him, but she didn’t deny that she was attracted to him, either. I liked how she didn’t hold back from anything. If she wanted something, she went after it and she actively pursued happiness and well-being.

His disdain soon grew to attraction, admiration, and he found himself under her spell, even if she hadn’t meant to entice him. It just happened and when it did, he gave her his all as she did him.

The tension between Susannah and Bram was so high, it was almost tangible. There was a lot of kissing, which is something I like, and the love scenes were white hot. I was able to feel them falling in love, despite interruptions and obstacles. That in itself was enough to keep me reading and made me ditch the audio and grab the readable book. The story was so good that I wanted to rush to the end just to see how this was going to work for them. It was better than I’d hoped for.

This is a story about acceptance, understanding, being proud of who you are without regrets or shame, and realizing that there is love out there for even us, dare I say, misfits. I liked the idea of a sanctuary for the women who didn’t quite fit in to the mold of societal London. Times were hard for women back in this era and I’d venture to say that it was impossible for some to meet all the expectations. Susannah and her ladies were forward thinkers and not the normal superficial, swooning, salt-smelling debutantes. It’s going to take special men to love and appreciate these special, eccentric women. Bram was the perfect fit for Susannah and she was just as perfect for him.

This was my first novel by Tessa Dare, but it certainly won’t be the last. I love her writing style, the humor, the steamy scenes that were written with class and grace, the interesting story, and the strong characters. This book fired on all cylinders for me. I loved every bit of it.

Purchase at Amazon: https://tinyurl.com/s7z5dz5

Book Review: Primary Target (Six Assassins #1) by Jim Heskett and Nick Thacker

FIVE STARS

Wow! What a ride that was. I’m still spinning from it.

Ember Clarke made a mistake that could cost her life. Being an assassin, she was doing her job and accidentally killed another assassin who wasn’t supposed to be there. That’s the short story of it. She was brought up on charges by the Denver Assassins Club Review and given the black dot, which means that she’s going to have six hits put out on her for the next six weeks. One a week. It’s combat; kill or be killed.

I’d read about her in a previous novel and thought she was just okay, but as I read this novel, I saw a side to her that changed my mind. It’s hard for me to like macho women. I’m not a feminist by a long shot, but with her, it was perfect. She’s beautiful, tough, witty, and smart, yet isn’t above using her female assets to get what she needs. She’s resourceful and quick. What I didn’t see about her was the truth. People aren’t always who they profess to be. Shazam!!!

And I got another huge surprise. I should’ve known by the hints that were given, but for some reason or another, I didn’t make the connection until it was said outright. It added more to the excitement and anticipation that was already present throughout the book, but it made me wonder just how all of this is going to end. You never know who your neighbors are, do you?

There are a couple of stories going on here, but they’re both centered around Ember. They’re suspenseful, kept me at the edge of my seat, and made me want to read the next novel right now. I know this series is six books; one for each week, but I’ve also read enough novels by Jim Heskett to know he doesn’t have a problem killing his protagonists. That just adds more intrigue and makes me want to find out more. I’m not so sure she’s going to survive this. The first week was rough and she’s got five more to go. I’m anxious to read the next book in the series.

*I received a free copy of this book and voluntarily left a review.

Purchase at Amazon: https://tinyurl.com/ssf4erq

Book Review: Train Wreck (Bennett Dynasty #6) by Kate Allenton

FOUR STARS

Honor Bennett is kind of crusty with her view on love. Her ex left her with a bitter taste in her mouth. So when the man of her dreams shows up at her door with a bullet wound, she’s reluctant to let him get close. When I say he is the man of her dreams, that’s what I mean. Each of the Bennett sisters has a different gift and Honor is able to astral project. She knew Hugh before he ever showed up at her door and walked into her life. He knew her more by reputation through her ex, but his situation is complicated. *No spoilers*

This is a good book. Don’t let the four stars fool you. I didn’t give it five because I’m a lover of romance. I love the feels as a couple is falling on love. I crave the tension building up to that first kiss. I love their first time. This book was more suspenseful than romantic and missed those key elements for me to call it a real romance. But the book was short, the plot was tight, and I enjoyed seeing Honor and Hugh work together.

This may not bother others, but it is a pet peeve of mine. I want to know what the characters look like. I can only guess that Honor looks like the woman on the cover and I have no idea what Hugh looks like. I don’t think there was even a hint of description of what he looked like, other than he had a tattoo. What did the tattoo look like? I want to see what the author is seeing.

This isn’t my favorite of the series, but is still an enjoyable read. While it is part of a series, it can easily be read as a stand-alone novel.

*I received a free copy of this book and voluntarily left a review.

Purchase at Amazon: https://tinyurl.com/sezrew9