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Posted by Amanda

This HaBO request comes from Julia and she’s trying to find a medieval romance:

I read this medieval romance about 12 years ago, back when I was a tween and my local public library still had their romance novels in one spot: the very back of the Adult Fiction section. I do not remember character names or the author, sadly. Here’s what I remember:

– Book was probably set in the 1300s.

– Heroine finds out her older sister has died and their father pulls her out of a convent to marry the hero in her sister’s place. I think the sister’s name was Sibylla, or some form of the name, but it may have been the heroine’s name instead.

– There’s a big spiel about spouses sleeping naked together. Heroine is nervous about this but hero assures her he’s not going to do anything until she’s more comfortable. Though I’m convinced he taught her the proper way to spoon.

– I remember a large battle at the end, where the hero’s helmet flies off during a duel with someone, probably the villain. I also think the heroine was either pregnant at this point or is giving birth while this is going on.

– The author had a “Historical Notes” section at the end. I think she used part of it to explain politics, how the hero’s helmet fell off during his duel, and say that “yes, medieval spouses slept naked”.

– I know there was an inside cover, and I think dark fuchsia was…incredibly prominent. It may have been a giant bed with dark fuchsia sheets. The fuchsia may have been on the cover as well.

Fuchsia alert!

Mod Post: Off-Topic Tuesday

Oct. 17th, 2017 11:36 am
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In the comments to these weekly posts (and only these posts), it's your chance to go as off topic as you like. Talk about non-comics stuff, thread derail, and just generally chat amongst yourselves.

Scientists have detected light connected with the collision of two neutron stars, which sounds like a Star Trek episode, but is actually incredibly cool!

Harvey Weinstein has been fired from Miramax following a plethora of accusations of various forms of sexual misconduct over many years, and aside from the usual "But I had NO idea!" from a bunch of people who probably knew damn well, it is to be hoped that no one is going to try and suggest that he was the ONLY one (Woody Allen, of all people, has gone on record saying that he hopes it doesn't turn into a witch hunt...)

Hurricane Ophelia hit Ireland and caused widespread damages and several deaths as it moved over it. A weird side effect was that the skies over most of Britain turned orange, and the sun a reddish-orange for a time, as dust and sand from the Azores was blown into the atmosphere the British Isles. Spooky.

Voltron Season 4 dropped and though shorter than the other seasons, still had some quality episode, especially their homage (and/or piss take to sentai shows)

The last season of Star Wars Rebels has also started, I hope it goes out as well as it deserves to, it has a LOT of ground to cover.

Wildfires in Spain and Portugal, possibly caused by arsonists, are causing widespread chaos and at least 39 dead.

Sorry to end with this, but, you know, I was going to give myself a week off from Trump, I think I've earned one, but I really can't, because he just keeps sinking to new lows. This week he became the first serving President to speak at the "Family Research Council’s Values Voter Summit". The FRC (Subtitle probably "Won't sombebody think of the children" with a logo of clutching pearls) is officially classified by the Southern Poverty Law Center as a hate group, whose agenda and membership includes anti LGBTQA+, anti-Muslim and white Supremacist POV's. The Cheeto in Chief reassured those in attendance that they "Would no longer be silenced". May I reiterate yet again, THIS IS NOT NORMAL, THIS CANNOT BE ALLOWED TO BE NORMAL.

Because YOU Demanded It....

Oct. 17th, 2017 09:39 pm
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The crossover all of us wanted.

Read more... )

His Dark Kiss by Eve Silver

Oct. 17th, 2017 07:00 am
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Posted by Elyse

B+

His Dark Kiss

by Eve Silver
November 24, 2013 · Eve Silver
Gothic

Before I ever read a romance novel, I devoured Gothics by Phyllis Whitney and Victoria Holt. When I was probably around twelve I found them on a bookshelf in our basement, and I think over the course of one summer I read everything both authors had written.

Gothic romances were and are the perfect blend of the creepy and the sexy. Usually set on a crumbling estate, the innocent heroine shows up (sometimes as a governess or poor relation or new wife) to meet the dark and mysterious lord of the manor/castle/whatever. These books were always told only from the heroine’s POV as she tried to piece together spooky happenings (ghosts, curses, diaries left behind by mysteriously dead former wives) while simultaneously fearing the hero and also wanting to bone him.

Sadly, there was no boning in Victoria Holt’s novels, but Eve Silver’s  Dark Gothic series is here to rectify that. His Dark Kiss is the second book in the series, but totally works as a stand-alone read.

Emma Parrish arrives at Manorbrier Castle to act as governess to the son of her late cousin, Delia. Rumors abound that Lord Anthony Craven, Delia’s husband, was responsible for her death, but practical Emma dismisses this all as “stuff and nonsense.”

When she gets to Manorbrier, however, she realizes some seriously spooky shit is going on. First of all, the previous two governesses died under mysterious circumstances.

She overhears her student, adorable plot moppet Nicky, discussing her with the cook:

“I haven’t met her yet. But if she is like Miss Strubb or Miss Rust or…” The child shivered and hesitated briefly before saying the woman’s name in a hushed whisper. “…Mrs. Winter, then I think I should not like to meet her at all. And certainly if she is like Mrs. Winter, then she should go away and never come back. Papa could send her off in a pine box. Just like he sent Mrs. Winter.”

A pine box? Emma stood frozen, digesting the implications of all she had overheard. Clearly the child was frightened, and had quite possibly been ill-treated by his previous governesses. That he had suffered was a sad thing to be sure, but his trust could be gained with patience and love. So she worried not overmuch as to Nicky’s opinion of her, but the mention of a pine box for the unknown Mrs. Winter gave her pause. There was only one type of pine box he could mean.

A chill crept across Emma’s skin. It seemed that Mrs. Winter had left Manorbrier in a coffin, and by the child’s account, it was Lord Anthony who had put her there.

One of the things that’s tricky in a Gothic is making the hero a menacing and potentially murderous figure, while simultaneously making him desirable to the heroine and reader. Like a true Gothic hero, Anthony is darkly mysterious and handsome, and has a penchant for wandering around his castle with his shirt unbuttoned but tucked in. The Gothic hero sometimes intersected with (or was a precursor to) the vampire hero, so if you’re confused as to how he could be appealing, think about Spike or Angel or whoever Sarah McLachlan was singing about in “Building a Mystery” (ah, the nineties. Good times).

Emma doesn’t think Anthony is a murderer. He’s a devoted and loving father to Nicky, and he’s also very kind to those in his employ (when a maid gets pregnant out of wedlock, he keeps her on and also pays for the care of her sick mother). But there’s definitely something fucked up going on at Manorbrier. For one, all the other servants seem creepy and tight lipped about everything, like they’re all in on some huge conspiracy. Then there’s the mysterious Round Tower that Emma is explicitly forbidden from entering.

One day Emma is enjoying the fresh air when she sees the coachman, Griggs, carrying a bundle into the Round Tower:

From the bottom of the bundle dangled a human hand, the fingers curled like talons, the skin wrinkled and pale save for a terrible blackened lesion that marred the flesh, the center glistening wetly in the sun. Emma gasped and lurched away. ‘Twas not just any body, but a terrible, frightening thing riddled with disease.

Taking another involuntary step backward, she held up one hand, palm forward. Such a futile gesture aimed at warding off the horror that confronted her. She swallowed against the bile that crawled up her throat as frozen talons of true horror gouged her heart.

Griggs looked down.

“His Lordship likes ’em fresh,” he said. “Says it’s best for the harvest.” With a grunt, he hefted his morbid parcel, turned his back on her, and disappeared into the tower.

Now, any sane person would be like:

Anna from Frozen says Uhh...okay. Well, I'm gonna go...

Not the Gothic heroine, though. The Gothic heroine is gonna wait until midnight, put on her flimsiest nightgown, grab a candle, and go figure this shit out.

One of the things this novel does really well is keep Anthony a darkly intriguing figure while also making him super bone-able. It’s a tough chord to strike, balancing fear and desire together, and going too far in any direction will ruin the mood so to speak.

Emma is illegitimate and acutely aware of what an affair with the lord of the castle could mean for someone in her position. That said, she and Anthony are drawn to each other with a delicious intensity.  And the sex scenes in this book are hella hot.

One of the things that was a little frustrating, but also frankly a convention of the genre, is that much of the conflict could have been solved by Emma and Anthony talking. “Hey, why is Griggs carrying bodies into the Round Tower?” would be a pretty reasonable question to ask. Emma doesn’t often explicitly voice her concerns and when she does Anthony answers her in a vague and roundabout way. It keeps the mystery going, but it’s irksome.

That mystery is resolved nicely though and the clues as to what the hell is really going are peppered throughout the book in a way that the reader can solve it if they want to.

Now I do want to add a trigger warning. There’s a scene where a woman is in labor and in distress, and there is a frank conversation with the physician about performing an abortion (and how it would be performed) in order to save her life. This could be upsetting for anyone who had experienced something similar.

His Dark Kiss is also fairly creepy. It didn’t give me nightmares, but the horror element is sufficiently explicit that it might freak out more sensitive readers. Since I read creepy shit all the time, it didn’t bother me much.

If you’ve never read a Gothic and want to try one, or are just looking for seasonally spooky read, His Dark Kiss would be a good place to start.

The Thing: Die Laughing!

Oct. 16th, 2017 10:02 pm
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Who initiated THIS guy?


A Charlton classic with art by Steve Ditko. Trigger warning for bullying.

'A little fright isn't gonna hurt 'em' )
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Sakura is another one of those characters so deftly created by Sakai in his "Usagi Yojimbo" series. She wields a whip and travels the land looking for her brother. To that end, she works in several gambling parlours as a dice-handler, reasoning that gamblers are usually the best source of information in their respective cities. To make it even more interesting, Sakai lets on that this whip-wielding gambler is not too right in the head.

This two-parter is her origin story, and her only appearance so far.



Whip it! )

Part II next.

Saga, Chapter Forty-Five

Oct. 17th, 2017 12:39 am
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Romeo and Juliet are also idiotic teenagers who do something incredibly stupid and kill themselves at the end of the story. I thought it would be interesting to start with two people who are adults and not idiotic teenagers. Instead of killing themselves, they have lots of hot sex. But then the result of that sex is a baby. -- Brian K. Vaughan

Read more... )

YA Fantasy, Plus Elizabeth Hoyt!

Oct. 16th, 2017 03:30 pm
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Posted by Amanda

Darling Beast

RECOMMENDED: Darling Beast by Elizabeth Hoyt is $2.99! This book seven in the Maiden Lane historical romance series, and hinted at a Beauty & the Beast theme. Elyse and Redheadgirl did a join review of the book and gave it an A-:

Elyse: For me it’s a solid B+. It was a good read, but lacked the Beauty and the Beast storyline I really wanted. Also Plot Moppets. And questionable choices on Apollo’s part.

Oh, there are great sex scenes though!

So…maybe A-?

RHG: The sex scenes were great.  I’d agree with the A-.

A MAN CONDEMNED…

Falsely accused of murder and mute from a near-fatal beating, Apollo Greaves, Viscount Kilbourne has escaped from Bedlam. With the Crown’s soldiers at his heels, he finds refuge in the ruins of a pleasure garden, toiling as a simple gardener. But when a vivacious young woman moves in, he’s quickly driven to distraction…

A DESPERATE WOMAN…

London’s premier actress, Lily Stump, is down on her luck when she’s forced to move into a scorched theatre with her maid and small son. But she and her tiny family aren’t the only inhabitants-a silent, hulking beast of a man also calls the charred ruins home. Yet when she catches him reading her plays, Lily realizes there’s more to this man than meets the eye.

OUT OF ASH, DESIRE FLARES

Though scorching passion draws them together, Apollo knows that Lily is keeping secrets. When his past catches up with him, he’s forced to make a choice: his love for Lily…or the explosive truth that will set him free.

Add to Goodreads To-Read List →

This book is on sale at:

Barnes & Noble Kobo Google Play iBooks

and

amazon

 

 

 

The Crown’s Game

The Crown’s Game by Evelyn Skye is $1.99 at Amazon and Barnes & Noble! This is a YA fantasy novel that has been sitting on TBR pile for a bit. It sounds so awesome,  but I’m also hesitant to pull the trigger when it comes to YA. Readers loved the Russian setting and the magical element, but wanted more political intrigue over the romance.

Vika Andreyev can summon the snow and turn ash into gold. Nikolai Karimov can see through walls and conjure bridges out of thin air. They are enchanters—the only two in Russia—and with the Ottoman Empire and the Kazakhs threatening, the Tsar needs a powerful enchanter by his side.

And so he initiates the Crown’s Game, an ancient duel of magical skill—the greatest test an enchanter will ever know. The victor becomes the Imperial Enchanter and the Tsar’s most respected adviser. The defeated is sentenced to death.

Raised on tiny Ovchinin Island her whole life, Vika is eager for the chance to show off her talent in the grand capital of Saint Petersburg. But can she kill another enchanter—even when his magic calls to her like nothing else ever has?

For Nikolai, an orphan, the Crown’s Game is the chance of a lifetime. But his deadly opponent is a force to be reckoned with—beautiful, whip smart, imaginative—and he can’t stop thinking about her.

And when Pasha, Nikolai’s best friend and heir to the throne, also starts to fall for the mysterious enchantress, Nikolai must defeat the girl they both love . . . or be killed himself.

As long-buried secrets emerge, threatening the future of the empire, it becomes dangerously clear . . . the Crown’s Game is not one to lose.

Add to Goodreads To-Read List →

This book is on sale at:

Barnes & Noble

and

amazon

 

 

 

My Lady Jane

My Lady Jane by Cynthia Hand, Jodi Meadows, and Brodi Ashton is $1.99! This book comes highly recommended and I keep bumping it up, higher and higher, on my TBR list. This is a YA fantasy novel that many readers find clever and really entertaining. However, others didn’t find it very memorable. It has a 4.1-star rating on Goodreads.

The comical, fantastical, romantical, (not) entirely true story of Lady Jane Grey. In My Lady Jane, coauthors Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, and Jodi Meadows have created a one-of-a-kind fantasy in the tradition of The Princess Bride, featuring a reluctant king, an even more reluctant queen, a noble steed, and only a passing resemblance to actual history—because sometimes history needs a little help.

At sixteen, Lady Jane Grey is about to be married off to a stranger and caught up in a conspiracy to rob her cousin, King Edward, of his throne. But those trifling problems aren’t for Jane to worry about. Jane gets to be Queen of England.

Add to Goodreads To-Read List →

This book is on sale at:

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and

amazon

 

 

 

Rooms

Rooms by Lauren Oliver is $1.99! This is a departure from Oliver’s previous YA novels, as this seems to fall more into adult fiction. Based on the description, it also seems perfectly spooky for an October read. Reviewers say the book starts off strong, but their interest seemed to wane halfway through. Have you read this one?

A tale of family, ghosts, secrets, and mystery, in which the lives of the living and the dead intersect in shocking, surprising, and moving ways

Wealthy Richard Walker has just died, leaving behind his country house full of rooms packed with the detritus of a lifetime. His estranged family—bitter ex-wife Caroline, troubled teenage son Trenton, and unforgiving daughter Minna—have arrived for their inheritance.

But the Walkers are not alone. Prim Alice and the cynical Sandra, long dead former residents bound to the house, linger within its claustrophobic walls. Jostling for space, memory, and supremacy, they observe the family, trading barbs and reminiscences about their past lives. Though their voices cannot be heard, Alice and Sandra speak through the house itself—in the hiss of the radiator, a creak in the stairs, the dimming of a light bulb.

The living and dead are each haunted by painful truths that will soon surface with explosive force. When a new ghost appears, and Trenton begins to communicate with her, the spirit and human worlds collide—with cataclysmic results.

Add to Goodreads To-Read List →

This book is on sale at:

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and

amazon

 

 

 

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Posted by Guest Reviewer

Squee

In the Distance There Is Light

by Harper Bliss
September 8, 2016 · Ladylit Publishing
GothicRomanceHistorical: European

Squee from the Keeper Shelf is a feature wherein we share why we love the books we love, specifically the stories which are permanent residents of our Keeper shelves. Despite flaws, despite changes in age and perspective, despite the passage of time, we love particular books beyond reason, and the only thing better than re-reading them is telling other people about them. At length.

If you’d like to submit your reasons for loving and keeping a particular book for Squee from the Keeper Shelf, please email Sarah!

I’ve been a big fan of Harper Bliss’s lesbian romances for a long time, and age gap (or May/December) stories are like my catnip, so you can imagine my delight when I heard she was putting one out last year. I consumed In the Distance There is Light in a day and it consumed me, crawling under my skin and staying there. When I recently listened to the new audiobook edition and loved it even more, I knew I had to share it with all of you amazing readers.

It opens as Sophie watches her boyfriend’s casket being lowered into the ground. She’s surrounded by friends and family, and yet she doesn’t identify with anyone except Ian’s stepmother Dolores, who’d lost Ian’s mother a decade prior to cancer. Sophie is a walking wound, her soulmate taken way too soon in an accident, and she doesn’t even get the distinction of the title “widow” because they’d never married.

This is real. I’ll never see Ian again. Dolores will never see her son again. During my thirty years on this planet, I’ve only been to the funerals of people I vaguely cared about. Distant aunts and relatives I never got to know. I’d always thought the first big one, the first one to tear me apart at least a little bit, would be my granddad’s. But I’m burying my boyfriend instead. Well, my partner, I guess. Boyfriend sounds so juvenile, so inadequate for what he was to me.

Sophie can’t stay in the apartment she and Ian shared because it’s too painful. After staying with a friend for a few days and sleeping only thanks to a nightly dose of Ambien, she finds herself calling Dolores and going over for a visit. Except that visit turns into an overnight, and when neither of them can sleep on their own, they find themselves passing out in front of the TV in Dolores’s bed. And then one night turns into a month and then more, with Sophie sleeping (Ambien-free) next to Dolores, each woman trying to pull their shattered lives back together. Everything changes yet again the night that Sophie kisses Dolores, the women finding comfort in a way they never would have expected.

So yes, it’s a lesbian romance about a woman who finds love with her stepmother-in-law. And as I was describing the book to my husband (who brought it on himself by asking what I’d been listening to lately), I found myself saying “I know! It sounds like a total porn premise, but I swear it’s not salacious!” And seriously, nothing about this book will make anyone say “Ooh, this whole ‘banging her dead boyfriend’s mom’ thing is so hot!” That first kiss is Sophie grasping for a lifeline, not the result of a meet-cute and flirty banter, and it’s followed by understandably complicated feelings. Sophie and Dolores’s sexual relationship, especially in its early months, is about survival and doing exactly what’s necessary to make it through the day so they can get up the next morning and do it all over again.

More than just a romance, In the Distance There is Light is a study in grief. What happens when your life is ripped apart and you can’t sleep in your own bed, let alone even think about going to work? Because the book is told in the first person from Sophie’s perspective, we’re given unfiltered access to her feelings and the rawness is almost overwhelming at times. She watches as Dolores handles her own grief by throwing herself back into things at work, while Sophie ekes out the smallest of existences in Dolores’s home, journalling her feelings in a series of letters to Ian.

[…] fuck, Ian, there have been numerous times, more than I’d like to admit, that I wished I were religious, so that I could find comfort in my faith, and believe that you are up there somewhere watching me, but sadly, I don’t believe in any of these things. You’re as gone as you’ll ever be. I’m left behind. And, yes—and you won’t like this—I have been feeling mightily sorry for myself. But you know what? I’m allowed. Because I have nothing left. Not even a wedding ring. Yes, you heard that right. I’ve also been wishing we had married. Then at least I’d be your widow, a scandalously young one, but at least something in relation to you. Now, I’m just a woman whose partner died in a road accident so stupid it wasn’t even worth an article in a newspaper.

I love how Sophie doesn’t shy away from her grief. She doesn’t try to compartmentalize it. She just fully experiences the sadness or anger or numbness as it comes. She may marvel at Dolores’s strength as she resumes normal life, but I suspect it’s Sophie’s acceptance of the worst of her feelings that lets her support Dolores in the moments when grief tackles her out of nowhere.

I was a little nervous about listening to the audio version of In the Distance There is Light because I love this book so much. It was one of the best books I read last year and what if the narrator didn’t do it justice? Narrators make or break audiobooks, and I was so afraid of not liking this one. My fears totally unnecessary because Charlotte North knocked it out of the fucking park. From the very first second, she was Sophie. And listening to Sophie tell her story made it even easier for me to connect with her again and understand her path from that enveloping fog of grief to a manageable day-to-day life.

If you can buy into (or get over) the premise of this book, I can’t recommend it enough. And if you enjoy audiobooks, I especially think you should pick it up in that format. This is Harper Bliss’s best book and it’s well worth the time and money


In the Distance There is Light comes from Tara Scott’s Keeper ShelfIf you want to read her previous guest reviews on SBTB (and we highly recommend that you do), you can see them all here.

Tara reads a lot of lesbian romances. You can catch her regularly reviewing at The Lesbian Review and Curve Magazine and hear her talk about lesbian fiction (including romance) on her podcast Les Do Books. You can also hit her up for recommendations on Twitter (@taramdscott).


Highland Promise by Alyson McLayne

Oct. 16th, 2017 08:00 am
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Posted by Amanda

B+

Highland Promise

by Alyson McLayne
October 3, 2017 · Sourcebooks Casablanca
GLBTRomanceContemporary Romance

Warning that the book does include violence and harsh language against women both on and off the page.

Did Amanda just read and enjoy a historical romance? Hell yes, she did. For readers who have been around the Bitchery for while, you might know that I’ve had a complicated relationship with historical romances. I just can’t get into them much anymore. It’s not historical romance’s fault! However, every so often, I’ll pick one up, and I will either give up fifty pages in or, in a rare case, I will devour it like a hangry honey badger.

Highland Promise falls into the latter and I was utterly surprised because it has some elements of which I’m normally leery. But they worked because they made sense within the narrative, instead of seeming more like a personality quirk thrown in for the hell of it. I swear this will all make sense and seem less mysterious once we get into the nitty gritty.

Highland Promise is the first book in The Sons of Gregor MacLeod series. It opens with the prologue, where a highland laird is demanding his clansmen pay for their treachery. Either they give up one of their sons to be raised by him or he kills them and takes their sons anyway. This also sets up plenty of sequel bait and, while the five men all make an appearance, none of the others overshadow the hero and his romance. The five men also have distinctive personality traits and it made me feel a lot like I was playing Highland Pokemon: I desperately want to catch them all.

Fast forward from the prologue: one of the sons, Darach MacKenzie, has a tentative truce with Clan Fraser. But when he sees an unconscious and obviously beaten woman thrown over the back of a Fraser horse, he jeopardizes the truce to attack the men and save the woman.

The woman is Caitlin MacInnes, a woman who has been given to the Frasers by her uncle as part of deal for gold. So it’s like a weird reverse dowry, I guess. Caitlin’s uncle gets riches if he gives her away to the leader of the Fraser Clan.

There’s no love lost between Darach and the Frasers. He was originally betrothed to Moire, Laird Fraser’s sister. Things did not end well and it’s revealed that Moire had plotted to kill Darach. Because of that, Darach is wary of being blinded by love again. He’s a serious man, but he avoids making the kind of decisions that would have made me closing the book. For example, he overhears Caitlin calling his name while she slept. Now, I’m sure we’ve all read romances where the hero takes the heroine’s sleepy murmurings as consent. Instead, Darach leaves her bedroom without so much as touching her. Most of the physical affection is also initiated by the heroine, which is very important because while Caitlin is twenty, she has lived an incredibly sheltered life. It’s a little sad that I get excited when a hero doesn’t take advantage of the heroine, but that’s where we’re at.

Caitlin’s family home burned down when she was around fourteen and she had lived with her uncle since then. He kept her under lock and key during her time in his home, until she was pretty much sold to Laird Fraser. I found Caitlin to be rather childlike, but it never bordered on annoying or infantilizing. She had no women with whom to talk and no additional education save for religious teachings from ages fourteen to nineteen. She was also abused while in her uncle’s care and adopts a willing-to-please, impulsive manner with Darach. She’s so desperate to be in his good graces and to try and demonstrate that she can be helpful because she fears Darach will send her away. To realize the deeper implications of her behavior and how they originated was an a-ha moment for me. Caitlin seems younger and more naive than her actual age, but it stems from years of a toxic, unhealthy upbringing where her worth was equated with money.

The only real issue I took with Caitlin’s traits was how pious she was. I’m not a religious person by nature and I would not classify this as an inspirational romance, but Caitlin is a firm believer in modeling one’s life after religious tenets. Her chastising about how Darach and his brothers would go to hell for blaspheming was a little much at times.

But despite the piety, Caitlin is what kept me reading because I was enthralled by how much I liked how. She was earnest and sweet, and I related to her people-pleasing tendencies. The fact that I understood her as a character and why she acted the way she did made all the difference in me finishing the book versus chucking it into the DNF pile. Caitlin also has a penchant for getting into trouble with her good intentions, which balanced out perfect she could have been.

Yes, she helps raise a litter of kittens back to health and many of the secondary characters adore her, but it’s clear she’s trying to find her place. Caitlin offers to help in the kitchen and the cook kicks her out for screwing things up. She wants to learn swordsmanship in an effort to show she’d be useful in defending the keep, but nearly lops off a limb in the process. Not everything she touched was magically fixed and she didn’t have an endless list of talents to be revealed. Honestly, I’m still surprised how McLayne won me over, since I tend to prefer my heroines angst-ridden and with a chip on their shoulder.

As I mentioned before, Darach has four other foster brothers who will be the heroes of subsequent books. All make an appearance toward the second half of this story, but McLayne does a great job in mentioning them without taking away too much time away from Darach and Caitlin. There’s also a really sweet moment when Darach is telling his family about Caitlin and they’re all happy sighing as Darach recounts his moments with Caitlin.

“Caitlin sounds like a wonderful lass.”

“She is…when she’s not digging up my baileys or drowning in the river”

“God’s blood,” Gregor exclaimed, eyes wide. “You will recount everything.”

They did, Lachlan telling most of it while Darach added to or protested Lachlan’s debatable remembrances. His brothers laughed themselves hoarse over Darach’s numerous trips to the loch, Lachlan losing all his coin, and Caitlin branding herself a besom, then claiming Darach was an innocent victim of her lewd advances. They listened with quiet dread as he related saving her from the river and the subsequent ill heath that befell them both. They erupted in anger upon the telling of her parents’ murder and Caitlin’s treatment by Fraser and her uncle. Then they sighed like women when Darach finally made her his bride.

Now tell me that isn’t a cute picture – five burly Highlanders along with their foster father sitting around a fire, rapt in attention regarding Darach’s relationship.

There are a few shortcomings to Highland Promise. The book seems to be split with the courtship and romance happening in the first half and the action regarding the book’s villains occurring in the second half. And, as mentioned earlier, Caitlin’s frequent religious quoting grew tiresome. The book also has the “scorned ex turned villain” trope that only lasts a matter of pages, so it seems like an empty element. I’m not a huge fan of that trope to begin with and it came and went so quickly, the book probably didn’t need to include it at all.

However, if you love a Disney princess, in all their saccharine, animal-loving, pure-of-heart glory, you’ll love Caitlin. If you have a weakness for kilted heroes, there’s plenty of plaid to go around. It’s a pretty pleasing start to a new series and worth a shot, especially since the cover model has some Sam Heughan vibes, don’t you think?

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Posted by Amanda

Man, we’re just doing giveaways right and left!

For all you coloring book lovers and readers who sometimes need a bit of stimulation, please check out A Far, Far Better Thing to Do: A Lit Lover’s Activity Book by Joelle Herr, with illustrations of Lindsey Spinks.

And to make it even cooler, we have three (3) copies to give away!

A Far, Far Better Thing to Do
A | BN
Here is the activity book’s description, which gives you a hint of what you’ll find inside:

Nothing captures the imagination quite like classic literature — the warmth of Little Women, the mystery of Dracula, and the heart-racing suspense of Moby Dick have inspired generations of readers.

A Far, Far Better Thing to Do pairs these treasured books with a witty, light-hearted sensibility, giving lit lovers 65 engaging activities to tease their brains and unleash their creativity. From word searches and connect-the-dots to coloring pages and quizzes, these charming activities infuse our best-loved texts with a fresh, modern spin and just the right level of challenge.

A celebration of reading — and readers — A Far, Far Better Thing to Do is sure to delight bookworms of all ages!

As someone who is a word search and crossword addict, I’m ALL FOR THIS!

The illustrations inside are also romantic and delicate. Here are a few images done by Lindsey Spinks:

A collection of classic books on a shelf - Moby Dick, The Great Gatsby, Lord of the Flies, and Wuthering Heights

A black and white drawing of a pretty woman in a flowing dress, sitting in a chair with a large mirror nearby

A cute illustration of a cat sitting up.

What do you think of the artwork? Cute, right? There’s something so dainty about it.

To enter for a chance to win one of three copies, tell us which book would give inspiration to a great activity! A maze for Captain Ahab to find his white whale? A coloring page for The Secret Garden with all manner of shrubs and flowers?

Standard disclaimers apply: We are not being compensated for this giveaway. Void where prohibited. Open to US and Canadian residents where permitted by applicable law. Must be over 18. No need to stay in the lines while coloring. Creativity is not a must, though always encouraged! Feel free to do the activities in pencil, though in the words of Bob Ross, “There are no mistakes, only happy accidents.” Comments will close Friday October 20, 2017 around noon EDT, and winners will be announced shortly thereafter.

Good luck, everyone!

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