Book Review: The White Lily by Susanne Matthews

The White Lily by Susanne Matthews

The White LilyPublisher & Release Date: Crimson Romance, October 12, 2015

Time and setting: Present Day, NYC

Genre: Contemporary Romantic Suspense/Thriller

Length:  315 pages

Heat Level: 1 Scorching Hot Flame

Rating: 4.5 Gold Crowns

Book Description:

The Harvester is out there…watching, waiting, biding his time.

FBI cult specialist Lilith Munroe lives in dread that one day the man who tortured her when a case went bad will find her again. So leaving her sanctuary in Quantico to join the Harvester Task Force in Boston is her version of hell. But the Harvester is kidnapping babies, and Lilith’s profiling skills may mean the difference between life and death for the most innocent in society.

Australian millionaire and former member of the New Horizon commune Jacob Andrews returns to the United States searching for his sister. Instead of the happy reunion he expects, he discovers she is dead and his twin brother may be responsible. He agrees to lend his law enforcement skills to help find his former cult leader before the man can implement his plan to kill millions.

Now, uneasy partners, Jacob, and Lilith must learn to trust each other even as they fight their growing attraction. But when Lilith’s greatest fears materialize, will Jacob be able to set aside his anger and save the woman he loves?

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Vikki’s Musings

I am a huge fan of Susanne Matthews. I first discovered her books when I read Echoes of the Past, and I have been hooked ever since. I believe I have now read almost every book she has written. Her writing style is incredible. Even when the story may not completely resonate with me, her writing does.

Lilith Munroe works as an FBI Cult profiler. When the Harvester strikes again, she goes to Boston to help find the man who is stealing babies and leaving behind dead bodies. A survivor herself from a Cult she had infiltrated five years before, she is determined to bring the cult’s reign of terror to an end and find the babies.

Jacob Andrews, an Australian citizen, arrives in Boston to learn his missing sister is a victim of the cult he escaped as a seventeen-year-old. He also learns his mild-mannered brother, James, is dead, and he brutally murdered several women after impregnating them for their evil uncle’s flock.

When Lilith and Jacob become partners as they attempt to end his uncle’s terrorism, they fight a growing attraction. Can Jacob find a way to capture Lilith’s heart and save her and the babies in time?

The White Lily is a riveting story from the first page to the last, keeping me on the edge of my seat waiting for the next murder to occur. And, there are a lot of heinous murders of defenseless adoptive parents. Her gruesome descriptions of the victims froze my soul and almost turned my stomach. The White Lily is not for the faint of heart!

Lilith’s character is a kick-ass heroine who is hell-bent on stopping the Harvester once and for all. While she is extremely hardened by what she experienced at the hands of the cult, she has a vulnerability that is very appealing. Ms. Matthew’s ability to bring her readers into the heart and soul of her character kept me totally engaged.

I fell in love with Jacob’s tormented character from the very start. When Ms. Matthews describes what he experienced at the hands of his uncle’s lackey was heart-wrenching. His fierce desire to protect the prickly Lilith put him high in my esteem.

This is an action-packed story and it takes the reader on a thrilling ride. This is one of the best thrillers I have ever read. I do admit I do not normally read them, but I am glad I had the opportunity to read and review this one.

Now, for the one thing that keeps me from giving this 5 Gold Crowns. The White Lily is not a true romance, even though it does have a strong romantic element in it. It needs to be categorized as a suspenseful thriller with strong romantic elements. I am not saying there is not a romance with an HEA, but that the romance is not the central focus of the book.

If you are looking for a nail-biting thriller that will have your heart pounding and your pulse racing, and you can handle graphic descriptions of violent scenes, then you will absolutely love The White Lily. I do recommend this book. Happy reading!

Book & Audio Review: Sherlock Holmes and the Case of the Sword Princess by Suzette Hollingsworth

Sherlock Holmes and the Case of the Sword Princess by Suzette Hollingsworth


Publisher & Release Date: Icicle Ridge Graphics, March 24, 2015

Time and setting: 1881, London, England

Genre: Historical Victorian Mystery/Romantic Elements

Length: 227 pages

Heat Level: 1 Sweet Heart

Rating: 5 Gold Crowns

Book Description:

Mystery with romantic elements 
Mirabella Hudson soon learns that the Great Detective has more in store for her than washing jars and labeling specimens: pistol shooting, fencing, boxing, and Jiu-Jitsu. This she can master, but Mirabella must face the greatest horror of all: Miss de Beauvais’ Finishing School for Distinguished Young Ladies.

Sherlock Holmes gets more than he bargained for when he hires his landlady’s young ward to keep his laboratory in order. Mrs. Hudson’s niece might be clever, but Mirabella Hudson is insubordinate, talks too much, is an accident waiting to happen—and, worst of all, is distractingly pretty. 

Unfortunately, ‘pretty’ is just what Sherlock Holmes needs. Sherlock might be a master of disguise, but pretty he is not. The Great Detective requires a female operative to go under cover at London’s premier finishing school where Princess Elena Petrovic-Njegos of Montenegro is a client—and the target of an assassination plot. If the inexperienced Miss Hudson and her employer do not succeed in saving the princess, there is trouble brewing across the globe that could potentially lead to war on a massive scale. Montenegro is a small Serbian country, but She has among her allies the Mother Russia. 

One unsuccessful case could ruin this young detective’s career before it starts. Above all, Sherlock must have work—and he must be in pursuit. Work is the blood in his veins. Work is life. 

The game is afoot! And there can be no greater puzzle than what he receives in the form of one Mirabella Hudson—who might stump even Sherlock Holmes.

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Vikki’s Musings

Sherlock Holmes and the Case of the Sword Princess is a departure from my usual read. I received a copy of the audio version from the author in exchange for an honest review. This is a delightfully intriguing story, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. I am so glad I took a change on this sweet read.

When Mirabella Hudson is hired as an assistant to Sherlock Holmes, the last thing she imagined is going undercover at a finishing school to help protect Princess Elena Petrocic-Njegos of Montenegro. While shocked and concerned at the prospect of this assignment, Mirabella embraces it, determined to fulfill her responsibilities.

Sherlock Holmes is enchanted by the vivacious, yet annoying Mirabella, the young woman he hires to assist him and keep him organized. He does not need the distraction of his pretty assistant, but when he sees the need for an undercover operative to protect the Princess of Montenegro, he decides Mirabella would be perfect for the assignment.

Will Mirabella not only save the princess, but little children from the orphanage as well, or will she fail at her mission?

Ms. Hollingsworth has penned a well-written and enchanting read. I enjoyed the sweet romance between Sherlock Holmes and Mirabella Hudson a great deal. While this is a romantic element and not the central theme of the book, I found it charming. There is also another romantic element in this book between the princess and her prince as well. The mystery thread is intriguing and captured my interest immediately and pulled me into the tale.

Mirabella is a great character. I loved her determination to pursue her goals and her desire to help others. Some of the scenes between her and the orphans she helps touched my heart. The bravery she shows is incredible, especially when she is so afraid for her charges. That scene had me sitting on the edge of my seat waiting to find out what would happen!

Ms. Hollingsworth moves from Mirabella’s point of view to Sherlock’s with ease, and her story line is expertly woven between the mystery and the romantic element. Her pacing is excellent and made this story a delight to read.

Since I listened to the audio version, I want to mention the narrator. Joel Froomkin is fantastic. He switches from one character to the next, giving each their distinctive voice. I especially loved his interpretation of the children. I will certainly look forward to listening to this talented narrator again.

If you enjoy a fascinating mystery with a sweet romance interwoven, then you will enjoy Sherlock Holmes and the Case of the Sword Princess. I highly recommend this wonderful book and great narration. Happy reading!

Book Review: The Gladiator’s Mistress by Jennifer D. Bokal

The Gladiator’s Mistress by Jennifer D. Bokal

The Gladiator's MistressPublisher & Release Date: Montlake Publishing, July 14, 2015

Time and setting: 100 – 104 B.C. Rome

Genre: Historical Romance/Historical Fiction

Length: 330 pages

Heat Level: 1 Scorching Hot Flame

Rating: 3.5 Gold Crowns

Book Description:

Phaedra, a dutiful daughter of Rome’s most influential senator, has no choice but to marry a man chosen by her father. But a chance encounter with handsome gladiator Valens Secundus sends her pulse racing—and, for the first time, makes her wish she could choose her own fate. They make each other a promise: she’ll insist on having the right to select her next husband, and he’ll do everything within his power to win his freedom.

A gladiatorial champion, Valens has fought his way up from poverty to become a star in the arena. The only two things he craves are his freedom and the luscious Phaedra, both seemingly far out of reach. But four years after their fateful meeting, Phaedra returns to Rome and soon becomes a widow, and Valens answers to no one but himself. They’re finally free to explore their fiery passion—while evading a powerful and wealthy new suitor of Phaedra’s—until Valens must return to the arena one last time. And in order for Phaedra to control her own destiny and claim her love, Valens will need to survive the battle of his life.

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Vikki’s Musings

I received an Advance Reader Copy of The Gladiator’s Mistress from the publisher via Net-Galley in exchange for an honest review. The book description sounded interesting, and I looked forward to reading it. While this book does have a strong romantic element, I would not say it is historical romance, but historical fiction instead.

The historical detail is fantastic, and I truly got the sense of this very long ago time. From the description of the costumes to the vivid description of the Gladiator’s arena, I became enmeshed in that part of the story. I loved the description of Valens’ living quarters while he was still a slave.

I quickly bonded to Valens Secundus’ character from the start. He’s an honorable warrior who has fought his way up from poverty to become the Gladiator Champion of Rome. He takes care of his mother and sister as well as he can since he is still a slave in the beginning of the story. I always enjoy a warrior archetype, and Valens fits it perfectly.

I had a more difficult time identifying with Phaedra’s character. I did not see her as honorable for one thing. She meets Valens on her wedding day and immediately develops romantic feelings, even though honor demands she give her affection to her new husband. While I understand her father married her to a much older man of great political importance, she is still honor bond to the man she marries, but she is not loyal,even though nothing physical occurs. I think part of the problem is that the book jumps ahead four years, and I did not get to see her learn to have affection for her husband.

I struggled through a good part of the book before I became engaged with the story. Most of the time the hero and heroine is apart. I could not understand how they could fall in love. They never had a chance to truly get to know each other until well into the story, and even then it was more physical than emotional.

If you want to get a good feel for Roman times and the life of a Gladiator, then you will enjoy The Gladiator’s Mistress, but if you are looking for an emotionally-charged romance, you will have to wait until the last part of the book. I did enjoy this novel, and I’m glad I read it. However I think I would have enjoyed it more if I had gone into it knowing it was a historical fiction piece rather than a romance. Happy reading!

Book Review: Flight by Jennie Marsland

Flight by Jennie Marsland

(Winds of War, Winds of Change series)

FlightPublisher & Release Date: Self-Published, December 19, 2014

Time and setting: 1921, Nova Scotia

Genre: Historical Romance

Length: 227 pages

Heat Level: 1 Scorching Hot Flames

Rating: 4 Gold Crowns

Determined to live on her own terms, commitment isn’t on Georgie O’Neill’s agenda, but a night out with her best girlfriends and a pair of attractive men just in town for the weekend is right up her alley – until it snowballs into much more. 
To ex-RAF pilot Cameron Hatcher, single and free is the only way to be. Rather than go home to Ireland to be embroiled in a second brutal war, Cam chooses to barnstorm North America, giving crowds across the continent a taste of flight. Georgie is just a pleasant evening’s distraction before he and his partner move on.
But when mechanical problems ground the show, Georgie becomes more than a distraction. Between his growing feelings for her and the strong pull of loyalty to country and family, Cam is hard put to steer a true course. Go home and fight for Ireland’s independence? Or pursue a woman who’s told him her dreams come before any man?

Love costs. Can the price be too high? 

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Vikki’s Musings

I read the first two books in the Winds of War, Winds of Change series and enjoyed them immensely. When I realized the third book was out, I had to re-visit the incredible and invincible O’Neill family. Georgie fascinated me in the other books, and I was glad to see her get her turn.

Georgie O’Neill is fired, and what does she do? She goes out with her friends, no letting it get her down! She and her friends run into two flying aces, in Halifax doing a stunt show. When Georgie tells Cameron Hatcher goodnight, she never expects to see him again, but engine trouble with one of the planes keeps him in town.

Georgie’s adventurous side wants to throw caution to the wind, but her more practical side wants her to follow her ambition to become a writer. Can Cameron give her the stability she craves while giving her the freedom to fly?

This is another well-written, emotional read by Jennie Marsland. While not quite as good as the first, Flight is a worthwhile addition to this amazing series. I fell in love with Cameron from the first page and I was already drawn to Georgie’s character in the first two books. I enjoyed the romance between the pair a great deal.

At times I sat on the edge of my seat when it looked like there would be no happy ending for this couple, but after all this is romance novel, so after plenty of trials and tribulations, Georgie and Cameron for achieve their “happily ever after.”  Ms. Marsland does a fantastic job of keeping wondering though until the end. She also ties up all the plotlines quite nicely. I am sad to see the end of this remarkable series, but I’m sure she will be bringing us future characters that will pull on my heartstrings, leaving me wanting more.

If you haven’t discovered Ms. Marsland’s emotionally-charged books, I suggest you read Shattered, along with Deliverance, and concluding with Flight. While Flight is easily stand alone, it will be even more enjoyable when read after the first two in the series. If you like reading an area of history that hasn’t been explored a great deal, you will find these books a delight. I know I did. Happy reading!

Book Review: September Sky by John A. Heldt

September Sky by John A. Heldt

(American Journey Book 1)

September SkyPublisher & Release Date: Self-published, January 1, 2015

Time and setting: 2016 Los Angeles, California, 1900 Galveston, Texas  

Genre: Historical fiction/Time-travel romance

Length: 412 pages

Heat Level: 1 Scorching Hot Flames

Rating: 4 Gold Crowns

When unemployed San Francisco reporter Chuck Townsend and his college-dropout son, Justin, take a cruise to Mexico in 2016, each hopes to rebuild a relationship after years of estrangement. But they find more than common ground aboard the ship. They meet a mysterious lecturer who touts the possibilities of time travel. Within days, Chuck and Justin find themselves in 1900, riding a train to Texas, intent on preventing a distant uncle from being hanged for a crime he did not commit. Their quick trip to Galveston, however, becomes long and complicated when they wrangle with business rivals and fall for two beautiful librarians on the eve of a hurricane that will destroy the city. Filled with humor, history, romance, and heartbreak, SEPTEMBER SKY follows two directionless souls on the adventure of a lifetime as they try to make peace with the past, find new purpose, and grapple with the knowledge of things to come.

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Vikki’s Musings

I discovered John A. Heldt’s fascinating time-travel stories a couple of years ago when The Mine came up for review for Romantic Historical Reviews. I fell in love with that one and went on to read every book he had published. When the offer came to review September Sky, I immediately asked to review it. Again, Mr. Heldt has written an intriguing tale of adventure, mystery and romance.

Charles Townsend finds himself unemployed when his newspaper downsizes. He chooses to join his son, Justin, and take a cruise to Puerto Vallarta. While on the cruise the pair begin to grow an astranged relationship. They meet a quacky professor who does a presentation on time-travel. When asked to fill out a questionnaire, they both participate.

Shortly after their return to Los Angeles, Justin receives a call from Professor Bell asking the duo to come for an appointment at his office the next since he had liked their answers on the questionnaire. The next day the professor offers them the chance of a lifetime, to travel back to 1900. After taking time to discuss it, Justin convinces his skeptical father to agree.

When they make the trip through the magical tunnel and arrive in 1900 Los Angeles, the pair are supposed to travel to Chicago as they had agreed to do, but instead, Chuck wants to go to Galveston and try to right a wrong and save an innocent man’s life and make sure they leave Galveston before the great hurricane in September 1900 arrives.

Will Chuck and Justin be able to change this piece of history, or will two lovely ladies distract them from their goal and put them in the path of the most deadly hurricane known to mankind?

This is definitely a plot-driven story and a very intriguing one to say the least. Mr. Heldt gives a detailed account of the horror that occurred in Galveston on September 8, 1900. His vivid descriptions kept me on the edge of my seat for the last 25% of this book. There is no doubt that he must have done a great deal of research, which gave authenticity to this amazing event in history. This is what I love about his books.

Now for what did not work as well for me. I never became fully invested in the characters and the emotions they should have been feeling. There are actually three love relationships going on in this book, Chuck and Charlotte, Justin and Emily and Wyatt and Rose. Of these three, the one between Rose and Wyatt should have been heart-wrenching, but I never felt the deep connection to their characters. That may be because the book is told from Chuck and Justin’s point of view.

For most of the book, I felt as if I were sitting on the sidelines and not a participant. That kept me from becoming emotionally involved with what was happening to the characters, especially Rose and Wyatt’s sub-plot. I did become more engaged with the happenings between Justin and Emily toward the end of the book. In fact, I held my breath as the final act of their story played out and found my eyes tearing up. The ending definitely redeemed the story for me.

I do recommend September Sky to anyone who enjoys a well-written adventure story with lots of historical details, a decent romantic storyline and plenty of action toward the end. I will definitely read future books by Mr. Heldt because his stories are always compelling and enthralling, as well as filled with accurate historical details, and this one satisfied the history buff in me quite nicely. Happy reading!

Book Review: Innocence by Holly J. Gill


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